Book Review: Diary of an Oxygen Thief by Anonymous

“Romance has killed more people than cancer. Okay…maybe not killed but dulled more lives.”

This story is one of a sociopath.

Hurt people hurt people. Say Holden Caulfield was an alcoholic and Lolita was a photographer’s assistant and somehow they met in Bright Lights Big City. He’s blinded by love. She by ambition.

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As a result of years of pain and abuse the narrator is trapped inside his own head – after years of alcoholism, he turns to a life of sobriety. Whilst desperately trying to get his life back on track, it later gets turned upside down once more by a preying female. His world comes undone.

Written in first person, this tale is full of misogyny, arrogance and narcissism. Throughout the book the voice of the narrator got on my nerves, as he didn’t feel like an authentic character. In fact, I think the main purpose of the book was to make the reader dislike him; he wants us to pity him.

Penned by an anonymous author, I’m unsure if the story is fiction or non-fiction – the lines are blurred. It is simplistic in places, whilst being raw and full of sadness in others. Some of the things are true-to-life, whilst others are hard to ever imagine being real. Overall, I think this is a bit of a marmite book – you’re likely to either love it or hate it, sadly it just didn’t do it for me.

2/5

Author: Anonymous
Published by: NLVI Publishers
Paperback: 143 pages

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May Reads: What I’ll be pre-ordering

There are so many great books coming out in May (a couple of which I’ve already reviewed on Harry’s Book Club – See What I Have Done and Love Me Not). Here’s an overview of the ones I’m most excited about that will be hitting the shelves soon, the 4th May is clearly a popular day for publishing!

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins (Transworld) – 2nd May

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In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help. Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind. But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped. And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool…

You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood (Michael Joseph) – 4th May

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An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. Just before the Closing Speeches, the young man sacks his lawyer, and decides to give his own defence speech. He tells us that his barrister told him to leave some things out. Sometimes, the truth can be too difficult to explain, or believe. But he thinks that if he’s going to go down for life, he might as well go down telling the truth. There are eight pieces of evidence against him. As he talks us through them one by one, his life is in our hands. We, the reader – member of the jury – must keep an open mind till we hear the end of his story. His defence raises many questions…but at the end of the speeches, only one matters: Did he do it?

These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper (Hodder & Stoughton) – 4th May

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In a forgotten corner of Paris stands a building. Within its walls, people talk and kiss, laugh and cry; some are glad to sit alone, while others wish they did not. A woman with silver-blonde hair opens her bookshop downstairs, an old man feeds the sparrows on his windowsill, and a young mother wills the morning to hold itself at bay. Though each of their walls touches someone else’s, the neighbours they pass in the courtyard remain strangers. Into this courtyard arrives Edward. Still bearing the sweat of a channel crossing, he takes his place in an attic room to wait out his grief. But in distant corners of the city, as Paris is pulled taut with summer heat, there are those who meet with a darker purpose. As the feverish metropolis is brought to boiling point, secrets will rise and walls will crumble both within and without Number 37.

Release by Patrick Ness (Walker Books) – 4th May

 Release

It’s Saturday, it’s summer and, although he doesn’t know it yet, everything in Adam Thorn’s life is going to fall apart. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll find freedom from the release. Time is running out though, because way across town, a ghost has risen from the lake…This uplifting coming-of-age novel will remind you what it’s like to fall in love.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (Viking) – 4th May

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Recalling Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity, Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others. Anything is Possible tells the story of the inhabitants of rural, dusty Amgash, Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton, a successful New York writer who finally returns, after seventeen years of absence, to visit the siblings she left behind.

What books are on your pre-order list? Do you have any recommendations for me?

Spring Cosy Reading Night: My TBR

Tomorrow sees the next Cosy Reading Night take place. If you’ve not heard of the Cosy Reading Night, it’s an evening hosted by the lovely Lauren over at Lauren and the Books, which encourages you to snuggle up at home with a few books for three hours of reading bliss. You can see the announcement video here if you’d like to hear more. Lauren’s YouTube channel is full of bookish videos – her and her boyfriend David are such a funny double-act – I encourage you to go and check her out as she’s one of my favourites on BookTube!

Lauren and books
Image courtesy of Lauren and the Books

So, as mentioned the Spring edition will be taking place tomorrow (Sunday 23rd April), 7-10pm BST. I can’t wait for an evening of uninterrupted reading and I thought I’d share what I’d be reading during the evening, as well as my snacks of choice (very important!).

My books

Cosy Reading Night is taking place over three hours I thought I’d divide my reading up into hourly slots, purely so it gives me some variety during the evening.

7pm – 8pm

I think I’m going to start the night with Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine, an historical novel that “balances a Daphne du Maurier atmosphere with a mystery”. It sounds like it’ll be a dark, brooding read that will hopefully fit nicely with the cosy theme of the night. 

Beyond

Scotland,1893. Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, has rarely strayed from her family’s estate in the Scottish Borders. She was once close to her philanthropist father, but his silence over what really happened on the day a poacher was shot on estate land has come between them.

 An invitation to accompany her father to Canada is a chance for Evelyn to escape her limited existence. But once there, on the wild and turbulent Nipigon river, she is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, Ballantyre’s former stable hand, and once her friend. He disappeared the night of the murder, charged with the shooting. Evelyn never believed that James was guilty – and her father’s role in the killing has always been mysterious. What does he have to hide? In the wild landscape of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the secrets and lies surrounding that night are finally stripped away, with dramatic consequences.

 8pm – 9pm

Next up I’m aiming to switch over to some non-fiction. I’ve recently been working my way through Walking Through Spring by Graham Hoyland. I love nature and walking (and am a long-time National Trust lover!) so I’m finding this fascinating, although I only seem to read a small amount at a time. It’d be nice to make a dent in this one before Spring is over!

Walking

Walking Through Spring follows Graham Hoyland’s journey as he traces a new national trail, walking north with Spring from the South Coast to the Borders. Hoyland connects a labyrinth of ancient footpaths, marking each mile by planting an acorn and drawing a path of oak trees that stretch through the English countryside.

Whether it is sailing a dinghy through the Lake District or taking in an otter’s point of view down the River Eden to the Scottish border, he finds himself engaging with some of England’s best nature writers, discovering the essence of the country and meeting England’s rural characters along the way.

9pm – 10pm

Finally, I’ll either carry on with Beyond the Wild River or I’ll pick-up Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I’ve been planning to read this before the new film adaptation comes out later this year. My local library had it in stock when I last went in, which means I’ll need to read it before it needs to be returned.

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Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again.

My snacks

Obviously I’ll be drinking lots of tea, as for me it’s the perfect reading companion! In terms of snacks I’ll probably pick up some crisps and dip (sour cream and chive is my favourite, but a bit messy!) as well as some fizzy sweets – the sourer the better! When I’m reading I like to have snacks that are easy to pick up / nibble on.

The cosy factor

I’m planning on planting myself on the sofa, with comfy clothes and slippers on, wrapped under a blanket. If it’s cold (which it has been recently – where’s the sunshine?!) then I’ll light the fire and put some candles on too.

I’m looking forward to a night of pure relaxation – I’ll be doing a wrap up post next week of how my evening went. I’d also love to hear what you’ll be reading if you’re planning on taking part.

 

Book Review: Love Me Not (DI Helen Grace #7) by M.J. Arlidge

#Penguin #BookReview @MJArlidge

This review contains a couple of small spoilers – beware!

As a long-time fangirl of DI Helen Grace I’ve been super excited for the next instalment in the series; it was almost time to get my next fix. Being an eager beaver I’d pre-ordered a copy of the seventh book as I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, however in the end the book Gods were looking down on me and I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy for review from the publicist (Thank you Angela, you made my day!).

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Set over a single 24-hour period, Love Me Not is a fast-paced thriller with short, punchy chapters that are punctuated by time as the action bounds in. Early in the morning DI Grace is confronted with a brutal death – an innocent woman has been killed on her way to work. Soon the team is called out to the next crime, which is when they realise they have more on their hands than originally thought. Once again a serial killer is on the loose. I won’t say too much else about the plot as I don’t want to give anything major away.

I read Love Me Not in two short sittings – from the first page I was on the edge of my seat and eager to know the conclusion. Like the others in the series it doesn’t disappoint, it’s a crime thriller full of adrenaline, action, gore and suspense. Arlidge’s writing is succinct and snappy; it never fails to hook me in.

Love Me Not didn’t contain as much of Helen Grace’s backstory and personal life as the other six, which makes it great as a stand-alone novel if you’re yet to read any others in the series. She shows a lot more humility and lightness, with little focus on her dark past. As usual, the characters were dark and brooding – I was convinced that Arlidge was going to kill off the pesky, determined journalist Emilia Garanita, but sadly not this time!

If you are new to M.J. Arlidge’s work I heartily recommend that you start at book number one: Eeny Meeny. You won’t be disappointed!

I can’t wait to see what is next for Helen Grace!

 4/5

Give it a go if you enjoyed:  The DS Heck series by Paul Finch or Jo Nesbo

Author: M. J. Arlidge
Published by: Michael Joseph (Penguin)
Hardback: 352 pages

Love Me Not will be published 18th May and can be pre-ordered through my book depository link, here.

Book Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

#BookReview @IKillNovel #SeeWhatIHaveDone

Lizzie Borden took an axe,

And gave her Mother forty whacks,

When she saw what she had done,

She gave her Father forty-one.

See What I Have Done is a gripping retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders, that took place in 1892. Living in the UK I wasn’t too familiar with this rhyme, but apparently it is very well known in the US (perhaps I’ve just been living under a rock?).

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The tale is cleverly told from multiple perspectives, which I’m a huge fan of, and is predominantly set over the 3rd and 4th August 1892. We hear from a range of characters including Lizzie Borden, her sister Emma, the family’s maid Bridget and Benjamin – an acquaintance of Lizzie’s Uncle. As the story unfolds we start to question who is telling the truth and whether Lizzie was alone during her killing spree and if it was even her that committed the murder of her Father and step-mother!

As a character Lizzie is chillingly dark and devious, with a wicked streak painted through her. We see this during her interactions with her sister and father. As a thirty-two-year-old living at home, the book makes us question her – why is she a spinster living in the family home, unmarried and without children? In the late 19th Century this would have been something of an oddity.

The narrative is effortless to read and brilliantly claustrophobic. I felt like a fly on the wall in the Borden household seeing the sadness and madness erupt from within. Schmidt’s writing is vivid, an absolute assault on the senses; you see, hear, feel and taste everything that happens at 92 Second Street, from the juicy overripe pears that the characters devour to the molten blood that is congealing on the floorboards beneath her Father’s head.

One thing to remember is that this is a story about a crime, and a literary historical thriller, so fans of more hard-core, gory, detective mysteries might find this a lighter, easier read (but I should add that it’s one that’s well worth it!).

This is a well-researched true crime story that really gets under your skin; I was utterly absorbed from the first page to the last. A fantastic debut to keep an eye out for!

4/5

Give it a go if you enjoyed: His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet or The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis

Author: Sarah Schmidt
Published by: Tinder Press
Hardback: 336 pages

See What I Have Done will be published in the UK on 2nd May 2017 – you can pre-order through my book depository link here.

Blog Tour: Ashes to Ashes by Paul Finch

#BookReview @paulfinchauthor @AvonBooksUK

Hello again and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Ashes to Ashes by Paul Finch, a brand new crime thriller published by Avon books as part of the DS Heckenburg series. 

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A bit about the book…

John Sagan is a forgettable man. You could pass him in the street and not realise he’s there. But then, that’s why he’s so dangerous.

A torturer for hire, Sagan has terrorised – and mutilated – countless victims. And now he’s on the move. DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg must chase the trail, even when it leads him to his hometown of Bradburn – a place he never thought he’d set foot in again.

But Sagan isn’t the only problem. Bradburn is being terrorised by a lone killer who burns his victims to death. And with the victims chosen at random, no-one knows who will be next.

Least of all Heck…

Paperback: 480 pages
Published by: Avon Books

My thoughts…

Number six in the series, Ashes to Ashes is a thrill-a-minute detective story packed full of gory action. We follow DS Mark Heckenburg (Heck) from London to his hometown of Bradburn on his mission to catch Sagan – during this time the newest criminal on the block, the Incinerator, is burning down the city’s inhabitants quicker than they can catch him. The story is peppered with mystery, police humour and suspense. Intense in places it had enough action to keep me wanting to read more.

As a character, Heck is a maverick and likes to do things on his own terms; he’s dark, brooding and broken, but his flaws are what make him. As the case unfolds we find out nuggets of information about his personal life, which is full of intrigue, as well as his family history – the backstory gives the reader enough information for this to be a stand-alone novel, without having read numbers one-to-five in the series.

Although it’s quite a long book, it is such a blockbuster and it had me racing through the pages eager to find out who the culprit was. At the end of the book I felt like I’d walked through the furnace with Heck. I’ll admit that this was the first Heck book I’ve read, but now that I’m hooked I want to go back to number 1 in the series to start from the beginning properly.

I definitely recommend Ashes to Ashes if you’re looking for a dark, violent crime thriller to read. 

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Give this a go if you enjoyed: Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge or Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

And that’s not as all for today as the lovely folk at Avon have given me an extract of Ashes to Ashes to share with you – enjoy!

Heck stood up, but slammed himself flat against the wall beside the steps, crooking his neck to look along the passage. He understood her thinking. If he went running down there and tried to grab the two cops, there was every possibility Sagan would open the door and catch all three of them. If he kept out of the way, however, it was just vaguely possible the duo had some routine business to conduct with the guy and might be on their way out again in a minute, with no one any the wiser about the obbo. That latter option was a long shot, of course. Like SCU, the Organised Crime Division was part of the National Crime Group. They didn’t deal with routine matters. There was one other possibility too, which was even more depressing. Suppose Cowling and Bishop were up to no good themselves? Could it be they were here to see Sagan for reasons unconnected with police-work? If so, that would be a whole new level of complexity.

Heck squinted down the gloomy passage. The twosome had halted alongside number 36. They didn’t knock imme­diately, but appeared to be conferring. He supposed he could try to signal to them, alert them to an additional police presence, but the idea was now growing on him fast that these two might have nefarious motives.

A fist thudded on the apartment door. Heck held his breath. At first there was no audible response, then what sounded like a muffled voice.

‘Yeah, police officers, sir,’ Cowling said. ‘Could you open up? We need to have a chat.’

Heck breathed a sigh of relief. They weren’t in cahoots with Sagan after all. But now he felt uneasy for other reasons. Given the severity of Sagan’s suspected offences, this was a very front-on approach – it seemed odd the two detectives had come here without any kind of support. Did they know something SCU didn’t, or did they simply know nothing? Had ambition to feel a good collar overridden the necessity of performing some due diligence?

The muffled voice intoned again. It sounded as if it had said ‘one minute’.

And then two thundering shotgun blasts demolished the door from the inside, the ear-jarring din echoing down the passage.

The Ashes to Ashes blog tour continues until 19th April – you can find the other stops here:

 

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I received an advanced copy of Ashes to Ashes from the publishers in exchange for a fair an unbiased review. 

Book Review: We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings

“It’s 1984, and summer is scorching the ordinary English village of Heathcote. What’s more, a mysterious figure is slipping into homes through back doors and open windows. Dubbed ‘the Fox’, he knows everything about everyone – leaving curious objects in their homes, or taking things from them.”

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Was this just a prankster, were the villagers safe, or was there a harmful predator at large? The story plays out over one hot Summer and is told from four characters’ perspectives as the real identity of The Fox is unearthed. Set in a quintessentially British village, it captures village life perfectly – a place where everyone knows each other’s business and has an opinion on what their neighbours were doing. The novel makes us question how well we really know our friends and neighbours and whether the community spirit is really all that it seems on the surface.

For me, once the conclusion was unearthed I wish we had heard a little more about the Fox’s backstory and reasoning. I found this a light, easy read – one that would be a great companion for a relaxing, poolside holiday. There’s no doubt that Harriet Cummings is a talented writer, and whilst this book wasn’t necessarily for me (just personal preference as I’m more of a psychological thriller, than cosy crime fan) I’m really keen to see what she does next.

About the Author:

Harriet Cummings is a freelance writer with a background in history of art and gender studies. As a script writer, she has had work performed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as well as independent venues around London. While studying at Faber Academy, Harriet threw herself into her first novel and hasn’t looked back since. She lives in Leamington Spa with her husband and springer spaniel.

Give it a go if you enjoyed: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry or The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

Author: Harriet Cummings

Published by: Orion

Hardback: 320 pages, this book will be published on 20th April 2017 and can be pre-ordered on Book Depository here.