PINE, NEEDLES INITIALLY, BEFORE SPELLBINDING THIS READER

Standard

Pine CoverIn my twenties and thirties, I spent pretty much every free moment in Scotland. I was a bit of a Scotland-ophile. I think I knew more about the history and folklore of Scotland than of England. I was therefore surprised not to recognise I was in Scotland during the opening pages of this months second book review, but instead thought the book was set in some remote American state.The book is Pine by Francine Toon and is published by Doubleday (https://www.penguin.co.uk/company/publishers/transworld/doubleday.html) on the 23rd January.

In the story we meet Lauren, the main character, whose mother disappeared almost ten years ago. Father and daughter live alone in a remote highland village surrounded by pine forest. Lauren uses her tarot cards to hopefully find the answer to her mum’s disappearance and the secrets in her dads turbulent mind, while the locals know more than they’ll admit.

When a local teenager goes missing, it’s no longer clear who she can trust. She lives in this isolated Scottish community where everyone seems to be hiding something. Strange things seem to be happening, omens and paranormal activity. Are these all part of the loss and day to day struggles Lauren and her father face? Or this there something more sinister at play?

The realisation that I was reading a book set in Scotland dawned on me with a jolt quite a few pages in. The reference to Moray Firth radio had slipped under my radar amidst the references to pick-ups, trick or treating and Aerosmith. The Scottish names didn’t even seem out of context due to the large Scotland to American emigration of previous centuries. So then I wondered is this an American author? No, wrong again! Francine Toon is a Scot. Maybe I should read the backcover blurb occasionally, you might suggest? But its interesting to avoid doing that and just take your impressions from the story itself. Its illuminating to realise how often the blurb misleads or would have occasionally had led me to dismiss a great book altogether. Its not something I practice religiously, especially having been caught out by great “unfinished” novels before.

Anyway, Pine is complete. No worries there. The book its self is a gem of a find. A satisfying ending concludes a long and twisting journey. It’s difficult to know whether to class it as a thriller, murder mystery, supernatural tale or modern fairy-tale as it encompasses all these genres. There were a few modern references which linked it to recent times but I felt it could have been set in previous decades quite easily as the story seems quite timeless in many respects. The father raising his child alone, a small town full of gossip, bullies, a sense on foreboding with the addition of supernatural phenomena and legend.

Francine Toon Author Picture

Francine Toon

I’ve noticed there seems to be a current, Game of Thrones inspired penchant for all things fairy tale, legend and mythology, or my husband should vary his book choices a bit more. I’ve recently reviewed Fox fire and Wolfskin, a collection of modern feminist fairytales by Sharon Blackie and Lancelot by Giles Kristian about the eponymous mythical Knight. Plus scanning the Goodreads top books for this month alone, I find about a quarter of them could be said to have foundations in myths, fantasy and folklore. However, although this is Francine Toon’s first novel, her previous poetical prowess means her writing is assured and atmospheric. The book is intense and absorbing.  Again, if I’d read the blurb before beginning, I might have been agitated that the disappearance of the teenager it mentions doesn’t actually occur until the book is three quarters over but Toon is building empathy with her main characters and immersing you in their world. I could feel the cold, smell the smells and felt my heart sink as the world spun out of control after the disappearance, when suspicion and rumour started to take hold.

This is Scottish born author Francine Toon’s (www.francinetoon.com) Debut novel. She’s used to having poetry published in The Sunday Times and various anthologies, under the name Francine Elena. Her day job is a commissioning editor for Sceptre Books, while working and living in London.

My only reservation was whether Lauren’s mother would have local suspicions of witchcraft with her new age thinking, crystals, massage and tarot cards in this modern age. I suppose she certainly would have been seen as exotic and odd in a remote community. It was the only thing that jarred slightly. As I’ve mentioned on Library Door before, My mum thinks Yoga is ‘out there’ and hippy so maybe I’m putting my own fairly open minded perceptions about the supernatural into that opinion.

A fairy tale start to the year from Francine Toon. Sinister, gothic and a little bit scary, like all the best stories. I note its already been recommended as the read for January by the Irish Independent. I’m sure it will do well. So, get down to your local book shop and snap up a copy or conjure it up online and start reading it before the stretch in the evenings get longer and the ideal atmosphere for this book is then at midnight under your duvet with a torch.

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy ,comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d love to hear your feedback.

 

Pine BT Poster

ROGER BRINGS IN A NEWMAN TO REVIVE A CLASSIC GENRE

Standard

JRoger_FC(R9iii).inddOver the past few weeks Australians have been praying for rain in their fire ravaged continent, while in the northern hemisphere, we’ve been praying for a white Christmas for the past four weeks or more. Neither party got much of what they wanted.  Although I did find myself wading through snow over Christmas and it was all down to the first book review of the new decade. Its Shamus Dust – Hard Winter, Cold war, Cool Murder by Janet Roger and Published by Matador (https://www.troubador.co.uk/matador/) at the end of October 2019.

On an Early Christmas morning in a snowbound blitz scarred London, insurance fraud investigator Newman is awoken from his slumber by the telephone. The voice on the other end identifies himself as Councillor Drake from the City of London. He needs Newman to go to a church in the city where a body of one of Drake’s tenants has been discovered and from there find the killer. On arrival at the church, along with the body of a young man, he finds the only witness is a nurse on her way to work. Within a matter of hours the suspect list has risen, so to does their occupancy of city morgue over the following couple of days. What initially looks like a vice crime turns into a case of cross and double cross during one of the hardest winters to hit London. Firmly in the midst of it is our American, war veteran hero, who is trying to stay one step ahead of the police and find the killer with help of the curvaceous coroner Dr Elizabeth Swinford. Can they find the killer? Save the Councillors reputation and stop the killing spree in the financial heart of England’s capital?

Another thing we all look forward to around the Christmas period is a large feast and to make it all go smoothly you try to get every ingredient right. Just like writing a book. To produce a well-rounded and satisfying read, one needs all the right ingredients and in Shamus Dust Janet Roger has done that. From the perfect setting, to a memorable and charming central character and the ensemble cast of supporting characters topped off with the right amount of tension and humour, which allow the reader to become thoroughly engrossed in the book.

Janet Roger

Janet Roger

I started reading this book on the Friday before Christmas, it was pre-dawn on a cold crisp morning in a Starbucks near where I work. Yes, the atmosphere was perfect and never before had a book so made me feel more in the moment than this one and its opening pages. The nearest comparison to this is a Christmas Carol by Dickens and Mystery In White by J. Jefferson Farjeon.

What Roger has delivered in Shamus Dust is a truly remarkable seasonal crime thriller, featuring her dry witted detective who is cut from the same cloth as Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer. He is a delight to listen to in your head as you read this book and like his contemporaries, is fallible and prone to getting hurt…

The rich and detailed style of Rogers writing gives more life to her main character, the story and its setting, that if I was transported back in time to 1947 now with a copy, I would not feel out of place and could, by the lovingly detailed descriptions of post war London, find my way around the city. The skill in which she has written and described Newman’s surroundings and characters who inhabit it proves, if proof was needed, that this book was written and researched by a storyteller who is one to watch is the future.

This is Janet Roger’s (www.janetroger.com) debut novel and it has already tasted success, having won the 2019Bev hills award Beverly Hills Book Award, as well as Fully Booked’s Book of the Year and made NB magazine’s top ten.  She trained in Archaeology, History and Eng. Lit. and has a special interest in the early Cold War. She currently leads a nomadic existence, admitting to never staying in one place for a minimum of six weeks and at most three months on the rare occasion.

When Raymond Chandler died in 1959 he left an unfinished novel, that book was Poodle Springs. Thirty years later, the well-known crime novelist Robert B. Parker finished the book using Chandlers original notes. In the future we won’t have to wait for more of Chandlers ideas to be discovered, with this original pairing of Roger and Newman.

If there is anything against the book, its that the detailed descriptions that the author has woven into the story, force the reader to almost stop and visually look around, thus taking slightly from the pace its self. It took me well over a week to read this 300 page book, although I’m inclined to put that down to the added distractions of Christmas.

This week my book group chose the rota for the next 12 months and I got November, as a result Shamus Dust is already vying for my pick along with Mystery In White. But to be fair its only January, there’s a lot of reading to be done between now and then.

So dust off your trilby and raincoat and head down to your local book shop and purchase a copy or download it, before the rest of the world latches onto this rising literary star and Mr. Newman.

 

Reviewed by:  Adrian Murphy

NOTHING IMPORTANT COMES FROM CARVER’S EXPERIENCED PENMANSHIP

Standard

Nothing Important CoverWith Christmas less than a month away, we’ll all become more acutely aware of the pressure placed on us by TV and social media, to be of good cheer and surround ourselves with large gatherings of friends and family. But in doing so we overlook the people in society who are more vulnerable, who are left with a greater feeling of loneliness, depression and in some  tragic cases feeling suicidal at this festive time.

This month’s fourth book review is a thriller based around of a number of mass suicides that take place across the globe, it’s Nothing Important happened Today by Will Carver and published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk) on the 14th November

Nine strangers arrive one night on Chelsea bridge in London, then all at once they leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, with a pre-written suicide note and a page containing a single sentence, “Nothing Important Happened Today…”. The event is witnessed by passengers on a train, two will be next, then 24 hrs later a dormant social media  page has thousands of followers and there are numerous other mass suicides around the globe.

 

Who are “the People Of Choice” and what links the rapidly increasing membership, with the number of suicides rising, can the police find the leader of this cult and stop the next mass loss of human life.

chelsea-bridge-3_2820182b

Chelsea Bridge at Night (Daily Telegraph)

This is the second of Will Carver’s novels that I’ve had the opportunity to read and review. Having loved ‘Good Samaritans’, I was excited to read this offering. I expected violence, I expected edgy, I expected dark humour. I never expected what I actually got.

This novel’s contents were unexpected in that I wasn’t prepared emotionally, I think, to experience the endless bitter, vitriolic and loathsome ideology that fills this book. I’m not thinking, or I’m at least hoping, it’s not the way Will Carver thinks of his fellow humans. It is instead told primarily through the observations and opinions of the orchestrator of the numerous deaths that populate the story. We hear their intolerance, their lack of respect and empathy, their sneering disapproval and evidence of their own inflated ego. Think of the worst examples of internet trolling you might have come across and you have a feeling for what is contained within the covers of this book.

The story its self is broken into chapters examining briefly the lives and problems faced by each of the suicides. It is mind-numbingly and relentlessly depressing. I struggled to pick it up and carry on reading on numerous occasions. I persevered in the hope of a change of tack. I recalled that the Good Samaritans was a slow burn initially and hoped for a similar turn of events here. I was disappointed.

This is English author Will Carver’s (@will_carver) sixth book, his others include, Girl 4(2011), The Two(2012), Dead Set(2013) all featuring his protagonist Detective Inspector January David. Then there’s a novella in The Killer Inside (2013) followed by his highly acclaimed Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Express  Book Of The Year, Good Samaritans (2018). A keen rugby player, he turned down a professional contract to study Theatre and Television in Winchester, where he went onto set up a theatre company. Currently he runs a successful fitness and nutrition firm and lives with his family in Reading.

Will Carver2019

Will Carver (Orenda Books)

I loved the dark humour in the previous novel. If there was meant to be any such humour in this novel, it passed me by. It needed something! Jonathon Pye, a satirist, who does short videos pretending to be a news anchorman, caught off camera , ranting about the story he is doing  for his news channel , manages to say the most outrageous things , make a few actual insightful points and be funny , whilst making you think about the issues raised. This novel felt like it was trying to set an agenda sometimes. More often it felt like it was trying to get its readers to jump off something too. Some books are difficult and not enjoyable reading, like, for example, ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver, but you feel you’ve gained some insight or understanding from doing so. I don’t feel this book enlightened me in any useful way and failed to entertain me also.

Not a book I think I could recommend to anyone I know. A Christmas present for your enemies perhaps? Encouraging the budding sociopath in your circle? Certainly, don’t buy it if you’re feeling low! I’m off to cheer myself up with a crime novel about a serial killer. It’ll be light relief!

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

 

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought of this book visit their sites listed below. Then, if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feedback.

nothing happened poster 2019

ITS A RED-EYE FOR HOLLIDAY’S FIRST CLASS THRILLER, RATHER THAN A SLEEPER

Standard

Violet JacketI never had a gap year. Where I grew up, if you were lucky enough and smart enough you went from college to university, or like me, directly to a job with an apprenticeship and a professional  qualification at the end. The rest of my year went on the ‘dole’ or into youth employment schemes. I suppose it was the era before gap years really became trendy. I can certainly see the benefits of a little worldly experience before you settle down to work and study.

I now work with final year university students in my job. Its unsettling how childlike and unprepared for the world some of them are. Super smart but lacking in the most basic common sense and life skills in the worst cases. Whilst a gap year, travelling, working and visiting the more far flung areas of the world is an educational experience, recent widely publicised accidental deaths and murders of young people travelling alone, make me wonder how I would have fared. I like to recall myself as a fairly savvy and streetwise youngster. I know we get increasing more risk averse as we get older and see potential dangers more clearly but the places visited and activities undertaken, as reported by the media in those recent deaths have made me wonder what possessed them to think it was a good idea?

My sense of anxiety was in no way alleviated by reading this month’s third book review, its Violet by SJI Holliday and published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk) on the 14th November.

 

The titular character is a young woman travelling alone due to the fact that she has broken up with her boyfriend. She wants to travel on the Trans Siberian express to Moscow. In the process of trying to get a ticket for the train, she meets another single woman, Carrie. Carrie is on her own after her friend and planned travelling companion, broke her leg just before they were due to depart. She offers her friend’s ticket to Violet and the pair unite to make the journey Carrie has planned, stopping in Mongolia and again in Russia, before reaching Moscow.

We hear the story through the voice of Violet and from emails between Carrie and her missing friend Laura. The book starts with a traumatic event which involves one of the two women, but we don’t know who. Throughout the book we are given insights into Violet’s thoughts, feelings and motivations. There is a sense of impending doom and you are just waiting for something terrible to happen to one or both girls. Violet isn’t who she at first appears to be but there are a few moments which make you wonder about Carrie too. What is her true story? What is she hiding?

The sense of something bad coming your way as a reader was an unpleasant sensation. I had a few anxiety dreams during the days I as reading this, something I’d not experienced since reading Stephen King novels many years ago. I would have actually preferred not to have read the revealing prologue and had the events unfold without pre knowledge. The whole story was a series of ‘this is not going to end well’ moments. Hearing Violets thoughts and motivations expressed gave a steady trickle of bad feelings and allowed the tension to continually build. I thought the twists and turns at the end were a great way to round of the story.

Susi Holliday

Susi Holliday (Daily Record)

This is Scottish author S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday’s (www.susiholliday.com) 6th book, her previous five include the “Banktoun Trilogy” made up of Blackwood (2012), Willow Walk 2016) and The Damsenfly (2017), along with her festive thriller Deaths Of December (2017) and her gothic thriller The Lingering (2018). Inspiration for Violet comes from her love of travel and a journey along the infamous Trans-Siberian, she took ten years ago. S.J.I. currently divides her time between Edinburgh and London.

It’s a very modern thriller. I liked the email segments and the reference to social media. What can be learned about you from your devices and social media accounts is truly scary. The risks taken by both women in relation to alcohol, drugs, sex and personal safety seemed fantastic to me. Were they just symptoms of the personalities involved or the norm for young people in far flung places?

So take the train to your local book store or download a copy (both are green options), but be warned, this is not a book I’d recommend to anyone who’s daughter is about to jet off on their gap year, but a great read for anyone wanting to live dangerously, from the safety of their armchair of course! Just prepare for a few sleepless nights!

 

Reviewed by:  Georgina Murphy

 

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit it their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy of the book, come back and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feedback.

violet 2019

AN UNDER DEVELOPED START HAS ME DROPPING SCOTT’S MORTAR SHELL SIZED BOOK

Standard

the-photographer-of-the-lost-9781471186394_lgWhile reading an article the other day on the topic of golf course etiquette, and when it might be okay to walk off a course, the author claimed we have all been taught the same thing; and that is to always finish what you started. They went on to provide certain examples such as a DIY project, a sandwich…. (probably depends on who made it) and finally a book you are reading.

Well not in my experience! There are times when the old adage applies; that life is too short to drink bad wine or continue reading a book that you are not enjoying. This happened with this month’s second book review, which is sad, seeing as it was published at the end of October and this review is going up the day before Remembrance Sunday, when across the world we mark those who lost their lives in both world wars and all conflicts since.

The book is The Photographer of the lost by Caroline Scott and published by Simon & Schuster (www.simonandschuster.co.uk) on the 31st of October.

Its 1921 and families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she beings to search.

Harry, Francis’ brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph grave-sites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers,

Then as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to a startling truth.

I got as far as the eighty fifth page of this four hundred and ninety-five-page tome, most books get fifty pages to get me hooked, but it’s all relative when you have this many pages to read.

The two main characters seemed to be endlessly meandering back and fourth across rain sodden and mortar scarred battle fields looking for their loved ones, I found it hard to want pick it up and continue to read it, let alone overlook the inconvenience of lugging it around on my daily commute. Yes, if you have an e-reader its ok, but I don’t because I’m a traditionalist.

Casroline Scott

Caroline Scott

This is English born Author Caroline Scott’s (@cscottbooks) first book and was inspired while completing a PhD in History at Durham University. While there, she developed an interest in the impact the first world war had on the landscapes of Belgium and France and in particular the experience of women during the conflict. She was allowed to indulge her passion while working as a researcher for a Belgian company. Originally from Lancashire, she now lives in Southwest France.

I always feel upset at not finishing a book, especially when its for book group and the others tell me how great it was after the sixty fifth page. This book is not in my opinion an ideal book group read, as trying to read a book like this in a month or less would be a struggle, unless you only read one book a month and have nothing else occupying your life.

I wish Caroline well with this book and look forward to reading her future works and to those we’ll remember over the next couple of days….

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

(The Fallen, L. Binyon)

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

This book is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the others thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you go off and read the book, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d love the feedback.

Photographer of the Lost 2 BT Poster

 

RINGROSE SCORES A CLEAR ROUND AND NO FAULTS WITH MEMOIR OF HIS FATHER

Standard

BillyRingroseCvrAs a child, I was horse mad. I lived and breathed horses and riding. I knew all about their care, their tack and their ailments. My greatest wish was for a horse of my own. Growing up on an inner city council estate, I was regularly brought back down to earth with the pronouncement that you can’t keep a horse in a green house. However, I was indulged to the point of having riding lessons during my early teenage years. The school I went to was very good. It instilled a full education on horsemanship and horse care. None of this turning up to have your tacked pony brought out for you, Oh no, we had to catch them or  get them up, brush them down, check their hooves and tack them up ourselves. No mean feat for 12 year olds dealing with the most savvy, sly and workshy school ponies ever. But we loved it.

My heroes at the time were the british show jumpers David Broome and Nick Skelton. Harvey Smith was flying high at the time too but was frowned upon by my family for his bullish attitude, rude gestures and, what we perceived to be, rough handling of his horses. He was also not forgiven for always being on the programme at our local show, where each year there was a Tannoy announcement saying he’d broken down enroute (and then we’d arrive home to see him busy jumping at Hickstead). The poor man was probably oblivious to his eagerly anticipated arrival at a local county show in Nottingham!

I was always fascinated by the military outfits and no hard hats of the Irish team at international events. Such glamour! So, I was  both intrigued and delighted to be given an opportunity to  read and review a book  of the story of William (Billy) Ringrose and the growth of Irish success at showjumping on the international circuit from its beginnings to recent times.

The book, simply titled, Billy Ringrose, a memoir of my father is written and self published by his third son, Fergal. The history is built from interviews with Billy and his wife Joan, along with insights from colleagues and friends and from research in the archives held by the Army Equitation School and from press coverage at the time. Billy comes across as a reserved, self-effacing man, who saw the great triumphs of his career as just doing his job. They were spectacular wins. In 1961, he was presented with the Grand Prix de Monaco by Princess Grace and the Grand Prix de Roma by Queen Elizabeth II. He is the only man to have won the Aga Khan Cupas a rider, as the Irish Chef D’Equipe and then as President of the RDS. What could be said to be most amazing is that Billy had never had a riding lesson before he joined the Army!

Ringrose3

Col. Billy RingRose with Capt. Geoff Curran in 2016 (Irish Field)

 

 

This is also a history of the development of the Army Equitation School. It was realised that Ireland needed a way to advertise its equine bloodstock trade internationally and the best way was to compete and win showjumping events at international level. Cadets were recruited based on athleticism in other sports, rather than coming up via the ranks of pony club and local shows like in Britain, where the team wasn’t army based, and for a while all cadets made their way through the school in an effort to identify those with the correct combination of fearlessness and skills. At the same time the supply of horses was limited and variable depending on political goodwill, so the Irish army spent a lot of time competing with inferior horses to other nations such as the Germans who dominated the sport. The Irish had a different tactic in selection and training of riders. Which gradually paid off.

Billy was an inspiration to younger riders. He is well regarded by his colleagues. It was interesting to read of politics at work and his sideways move to a department he knew nothing about and how others were promoted without doing the necessary training depending rather on who they knew. Nothing much changes! Billy did get returned to the post of CO of the equitation school. On retirement from this position he went on the horse purchase board and the RDS horse show committee before being elected President of the RDS.

This is Irish Author Fergal Ringrose’s (@fergalwilliam) first book. After gaining a BA from

Fergal Ringrose

Fergal Ringrose

Dublin City University and an MA from California State University both in Communication Studies he has worked as an editor and journalist in Business publishing for the television broadcast production sector.

This is a very detailed account of a full and interesting career. Interesting, not only from the point of Billy’s personal achievements but also the advances and success achieved by the Army equitation school, during Billy’s tenure.

It is a book which would appeal to those interested in Irish history, as well as those with an interest in equestrian matters. The photographs are a lovely addition and the press reports give a real sense of the time. This is at times, a very moving and personal account of the life of a man who should really be more famous here and abroad. He’d probably be surprised to hear me say that as he appears to be modest to the point of denial! I would love to hear an abridged version of this memoir on audiobook, maybe with some of the actual voices. It would also make an ideal project for RTE Radio’s Documentary on One around Dublin Horse Show time.

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy