Blog Tour: Sticks and Stones by Jo Jakeman

How far would you go for revenge on your ex? Welcome to the blog tour for Jo Jakeman’s debut thriller, Sticks and Stones.

About the book: 

sticksstones

Imogen’s husband is a bad man. His ex-wife and his new mistress might have different perspectives but Imogen thinks she knows the truth. And now he’s given her an ultimatum: get out of the family home in the next fortnight or I’ll fight you for custody of our son.

In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable: she locks her husband in the cellar. Now she’s in control. But how far will she go to protect her son and punish her husband? And what will happen when his ex and his girlfriend get tangled up in her plans?

 

  • Published by: Harvill Secker
  • Published: 12th July 2018
  • 368 Pages

My thoughts:

Sticks and Stones is a sharp, dark and engrossing read full of twists and turns. It’s a solid debut novel and perfect if you want to get stuck in to a good domestic thriller. The book is fast paced and full of complex characters – as the plot unfolds, it switches time periods between the past and present, which keeps you intrigued and interested in the action throughout. At times it is a little over the top and farfetched, however I was still gripped throughout and couldn’t get through it quick enough – particularly the second half of the book. I’m looking forward to seeing what Jo Jakeman does next. If you’re keen to read an original thriller, then I highly recommend Sticks and Stones.

About the author:

jojakeman

Jo was the winner of the Friday Night Live 2016 competition at the York Festival of Writing. Born in Cyprus, she worked for many years in the City of London before moving to Derbyshire with her husband and twin boys. Sticks and Stones is her debut thriller. Find out more at http://www.jojakeman.com

You can read the other posts on the blog tour here:

Sticksandstones

 

Advertisements

May Reads

May was a fantastic month for reading, ticking off nine books across a number of genres – from sci-fi and YA, to literary fiction and murder mystery.

image2 (1)

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie – 5*

A modern retelling of Antigone, Home Fire is a timely, relevant novel that I urge you to read. I knew relatively little of Antigone and it was only afterwards, that I started looking up the storyline that I saw the clever parallels with it between Home Fire. Shamsie has woven an intricate thread that unravels on the last page – a proper tour-de-force of an ending!

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michele McNamara – 4*

Published posthumously, this is the tale searching for The Golden State Killer – a man who committed a proliferation of murders and rapes across California in the 1970s and 80s. McNamara’s writing style is more crime-thriller than true crime, which absorbs you into the story. Full of meticulous detail and reports, this is such an interesting tale. Although be warned, it’s definitely creepy – I live in a single storey house and it left me feeling on edge.

Clean by Juno Dawson – 3*

A young adult novel, which definitely erred on the side of adult than teenage fiction. The story follows teen socialite Lexi into a rehab facility where she is treated for heroin addiction. It was a compelling and easy read – particularly given the heavy subject matter – but I felt it lacked diversity and depth, and was a little predictable in places. I wouldn’t rush to recommend this one.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – 4*

A cross between Agatha Christie, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and a real life game of Cluedo! I’m in awe of Turton’s plotting skills – it takes a real mastermind to be able to write and execute a story like this. A mind-bowing and unique concept.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – 3*

This one didn’t really hit the mark for me – I was expecting to be scared witless, but instead I was left a little defeated. Perhaps it was because I read it on a sunny May commute with lots of hubbub around me, rather than a candlelit winter night with storms raging outside.

Everything I know about love by Dolly Alderton – 3*

An ode to growing up, growing old and navigating all types of love. Enjoyable, laugh-out-loud and sad in places, but perhaps not the mind-blowingly good book I was hoping it would be.

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively – 3*

I think this was a case of right book, wrong time. It took me quite a while to get into the writing of Moon Tiger, which is saying something as it’s a relatively short book. It tells the story of Claudia who wants to write the history of the world whilst in hospital during her final days. There were bits that I thought were fantastic, but I don’t think I was really in the mood to read this at the time – I might revisit it in the future. 

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem – 4*

This was such an intelligent, complex and haunting sci-fi read. It reads as if it’s just been written, rather than 40 years ago. It’s vague in places, but the way Lem writes allows you to imagine the depths of Solaris – it focuses on alien life and the way humans communicate and understand it. It’s esoteric, leaving you with more questions than answers but well worth a read. Next up, I’m going to watch the films.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – 5*

image1 (10)

If you knew the date of your death would you live your life differently? The Immortalists follow four siblings through their life. Chloe’s writing is immersive – the world she has constructed and the characters within it are just beautiful. I’ve seen mixed reviews of this one, but I couldn’t rate it highly enough. It will stick with me for a long time.

On Courage: A celebration of the Victoria and George Cross holders

Happy publication day to On Courage, stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross holders (published by Constable, Little Brown).

OnCourage

On Courage is a moving collection of 28 inspirational stories, which showcase the valour, courage and bravery shown by recipients of the Victoria Cross and George Cross. The VC is the highest military decoration awarded for valour in the face of the enemy to members of the armed forces, whilst the GC is awarded to those who have displayed heroism or courage whilst in extreme danger.

Each chapter in On Courage is introduced by a public figure – from Mary Berry to Sir Bobby Charlton – and the stories told are remarkable, but also at times hard to read. The determination and selflessness of the VC and GC recipients is just incredible. Reading through the accounts was incredibly humbling – protecting others at the expense of your own safety is something I’m sure not many of us would be selfless and courageous enough to do. In fact, it’s hard to imagine the situations the recipients of the VC and GC endured and overcame.

Today, I wanted to shine a light on one story in particular – the one of RAF flight engineer Norman Jackson. During the war, he climbed out onto the wing of his Lancaster bomber plane, whilst in flight over Germany, to put out a fire using a twisted parachute as a rope. Whilst out there, with exploding aircraft around him lighting up the sky, he was shot in the arm which caused him to plunge down to earth, and many were surprised that he lived to tell the tale. He confronted fear head-on to protect his comrades and squadron, all on the night his first child was born. I found this story particularly moving as my Grandfather was also a pilot in the RAF during WWII – it made me think of the resilience and bravery they must have had up in the sky. But truth be told, this wasn’t the only story that left me with a lump in my throat and glassy eyes.

A heart-warming read, On Courage reminds you of the good in humanity and shows that wherever we go in life there will be remarkable people, if we just look for them. I highly recommend picking this up – just be sure to get the tissues at the ready!

You can order a copy of the book through Waterstones here.

The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association made its archive available, which contributed to the publication of On Courage. The book is part of The Sebastopol Project, which will raise money for Combat Stress, as well as The VC and GC Association – £2.70 of every book purchase will go directly to charity. Combat Stress is the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health.

April Reads

April was spent with a viral infection, so a lot of time was spent resting up / sleeping / generally feeling miserable, so this month I’m going all guns blazing to get back on track and up-to-speed with everything.

So, what did I end up reading in April?

I See You by Clare Mackintosh (Sphere) – 4/5

I’m a big fan of Mackintosh’s debut novel, I Let You Go so had high expectations for I See You. I don’t think it had the same level of shock, or cleverness, as her first but nonetheless this was a high-paced psychological thriller which ultimately leads you to question those around you.

Elmet by Fiona Mozley (JM Originals) – 3/5

image1 (11)

Examining those on the fringes of society, Elmet explores family, the way we use the land and what landscapes mean to us. It’s a slow burner of a book for sure, but Mozley’s prose is beautiful. It’s an earthy, visceral read, however I found it a little patchy in places and didn’t think the ‘twist’ in the book worked with the overall flow – perhaps it was meant to feel jarring. I’m keen to see what Mozley does next.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Scribner) – 3/5

In the midst of WWII, we follow Anna who is ballsy and independent – she becomes the first female diver, something that was unheard of at the time. This novel has war, love, mobsters – intrigue and scandal. The characters were really well developed and the storyline evidently well researched as I could imagine myself on the dock with Anna. I did enjoy Manhattan Beach; however, it would have gone up a star or two if we heard more about Anna’s life and her Mother rather than the men that dominated her life.

When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy (Atlantic Books) – 5/5

image2 (2)

This is my stand out book for the month and definitely a contender to win the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It was raw, tender, poetic and playful. It tackled an incredibly sensitive subject matter – of domestic abuse – and spoke about it openly. I couldn’t stop reading this and devoured it in a single sitting.

 

Blog Tour: A Breath After Drowning by Alice Blanchard

Today, I’m on the blog tour for A Breath After Drowning by Alice Blanchard, published by Titan Books.

About the book:

BreathCover

Child psychiatrist Kate Wolfe’s world comes crashing down when one of her young patients commits suicide, so when a troubled girl is left at the hospital ward, she doubts her ability to help. But the girl knows things about Kate’s past, things she shouldn’t know, forcing Kate to face the murky evidence surrounding her own sister s murder sixteen years before. A murder for which a man is about to be executed.

Unearthing secrets about her own family, and forced to face both her difficult relationship with her distant father and the possibility that her mother might also have met a violent end, the shocking final twist brings Kate face to face with her deepest fear.

Paperback: 400 pages
Published by: Titan Books
Author: Alice Blanchard

My review:

A Breath After Drowning is a tense, page-turner of a book – a psychological thriller that really packs a punch.

Kate, the central character, is complex – full of guilt, mental health struggles and intelligence. At times, she is dark, brooding and intense, so it was refreshing to see other light-hearted relationships alongside this – her boyfriend’s character added depth and a little humour to the book. This juxtaposition was very much needed amongst the grief and darkness that plagued the rest of the novel. Whilst ABAD is character-led, the author has done a great job ensuring you’re invested in the plot, making sure you want to know how every element of the story unfolds.

The book is a little slow in places, but that by no means detracts from the plot, as the pace later increases, with tension firing up on all cylinders.

I’m also a huge fan of books set over multiple time periods – Blanchard creates a rich puzzle of past and present events, overlapping wonderfully. I love discovering new authors and this has definitely intrigued me, leaving me wanting to read more by Alice Blanchard. I highly recommend ABAD – engrossing from the first page, to the last.

You can catch the other blog posts on the tour, here:

A Breath After Drowning_FINAL

Thank you to Philippa, from Titan Books, for sending me an advanced copy of the book – this is an honest and unbiased review. 

Blog Tour: The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl

Another day, another blog tour – today, I’m here with The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl, published by the wonderful Orenda Books.

About the book

The Ice Swimmer AW.indd

The Oslo Detectives are back in another slice of gripping, dark Nordic Noir, and their new colleague has more at stake than she’s prepared to reveal…When a dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before Christmas, Detective Lena Stigersand’s stressful life suddenly becomes even more complicated. Not only is she dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and an untrustworthy boyfriend, but it seems both a politician and Norway’s security services might be involved in the murder.

With her trusted colleagues, Gunnarstranda and Frølich, at her side, Lena digs deep into the case and finds that it not only goes to the heart of the Norwegian establishment, but it might be rather to close to her personal life for comfort. Dark, complex and nail-bitingly tense, The Ice Swimmeris the latest and most unforgettable instalment in the critically acclaimed Oslo Detective series, by the godfather of Nordic Noir.

Publisher: Orenda Books
Paperback: 276 Pages
Translated by: Don Bartlett

A brief overview of my thoughts…

The Ice Swimmer is a wonderfully written Police Procedural, fronted by Lena who is a whip smart and strong female detective. Gripping from the start, it works wonderfully as a stand alone novel – this was the first book I’d read in The Oslo Detective series and I didn’t feel lost, or like I was missing any information.

Full of plot, twists and tales this kept me intrigued from the first to last page – I wanted to keep going until I found out what had happened. If you’re into your Nordic Noir, I’d recommend this clever, twisty tale.

About the author

kjellauthor

One of the godfathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjovik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frolich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

You can keep up with the other posts on the blog tour, here:

iceswimmer

As ever, a HUGE thank you to the wonderful Anne for organising another wonderful A Random Things Tour.  

March Reads

I would say ‘how has another month passed?’ but I seem to say the same thing every month, so I’ll save the spiel.

I had a real bumper month of reading and got stuck into some amazing books, so without further ado here’s an update

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – 4/5

eleanor

This one is nominated for the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction and is such a memorable read. Loneliness, depression and friendship are all explored through Eleanor’s wonderfully quirky and bereft character – Gail Honeyman has created such a complex, deep and believable character in Eleanor, one who is set in her ways until one small accident changes everything for her. There were bits of this book which weren’t perfect, however overall I absolutely loved it and would heartily recommend it to friends and family. 

An Unremarkable Body by Elisa Lodato – 4/5

unremarkable.jpeg

When Katharine is found dead at the foot of her stairs, it is the mystery of her life that consumes her daughter, Laura. The book highlights that although, as we discover from her autopsy, Katherine has an unremarkable body she’s had a life full of hidden secrets. This book is a trip down memory lane, Laura longs for her dead Mother as she tries to figure out if she ever really knew her at all.

The F Word by Lily Pebbles – 3/5

fwordlily.jpeg

A modern-day tale of female friendship and its complexities, written by YouTuber Lily Pebbles. This was an easy read, but felt more like one long journal entry, than a study on friendship and was a little repetitive in places. For me, it lacked real substance and I think  it is probably better suited for a younger audience.

These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper – 4/5

dividingwalls

An absolute powerhouse of a book. These Dividing Walls starts as a cosy look at the people behind four walls in Paris and ends up being an explosive look at race, politics, terrorism and relationships. I’m not going to say much about the topic, or what happens, as I implore you to read it. Fran Cooper’s second novel – The Two Houses – is out now and I’ve made sure I’ve requested it at my local library.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell – 4/5

livingdanishly.jpeg

Denmark is officially the happiest nation on Earth. When Helen Russell is forced to move to rural Jutland, can she discover the secrets of their happiness? This book is split into months of the year, with the writer exploring one element of Danish life in each chapter – covering everything from traditions to the harsh Danish winters. This was such an enjoyable, cosy read which made me question what makes me happy in my life, but most of all it made me want to move to Denmark. Sign me up, when do I leave? 

We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard

SaltofSea.jpeg

A lyrical, literary crime story. – a poetic ode to the sea. At times I struggled with the flow of this book – it has a certain lilt to it and a very distinctive voice rhythm and style. Unfortunately, on this occasion I just think it was the wrong timing for me to read this.

Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth – 4/5

animals

Described as a female version of Withnail and I, Animals is a raucous read from start to finish – it leaves you tired from Laura and Tyler’s high-octane escapades. However, underneath the drink, drugs and whirlwind lifestyles, it questions how we want our lives to pan-out, asking us when is the right time to grow up, as well as understanding what we might need to leave behind to achieve a happy life. A tale of female friendship, love and belonging.