Red Snow by Will Dean #BookReview

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TWO BODIES

One suicide. One cold-blooded murder. Are they connected? And who’s really pulling the strings in the small Swedish town of Gavrik?

TWO COINS

Black Grimberg liquorice coins cover the murdered man’s eyes. The hashtag #Ferryman starts to trend as local people stock up on ammunition.

TWO WEEKS

Tuva Moodyson, deaf reporter at the local paper, has a fortnight to investigate the deaths before she starts her new job in the south. A blizzard moves in. Residents, already terrified, feel increasingly cut-off. Tuva must go deep inside the Grimberg factory to stop the killer before she leaves town for good. But who’s to say the Ferryman will let her go?

amazon uk amazon com

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If you enjoyed Dark Pines, the first novel in the Tuva Moodyson series, then you’ll enjoy Red Snow too. I would recommend reading the first novel before picking this one up though, not because Red Snow gives away information about the killer in the first novel so much but it’s more that you can see who is in the clear in this novel, so if you’d read in reverse that would be a shame to know already.

Dark Pines was an enjoyable read and I was submersed in the icecold atmosphere of Gavrik quickly. Its claustrophobic feel was quite overwhelming again and even though I was attracted to all the peace and quite of the small town at first, I soon understood it wasn’t a fairytale to live here and I supported Tuva’s longing to move to a warmer region and a more bustling and energetic city. Not that there’s nothing happening in Toytown…

I loved reading about the lay-out of the town and I could see with my eyes closed Ronnie’s store, the police station, Tammy’s Thai foodtruck and the Posten where Tuva works. It was easy to feel as if I was there alongside Tuva, moving among these people, and I believe I even pulled my little blankie a little closer around me, as if the cold from the novel could almost touch me (-20 degrees sounds inhuman to me to live in day in day out). The author lives in the Swedish forest himself and there’s no way someone else could translate that experience as well as he does.

It was the setting and the descriptions instead of the mystery itself that stole the show for me really, because the mystery was wrapped up in a lot of family drama. The remaining Grimbergs were a weird and peculiar family and I didn’t feel much affinity with them as I quickly worked out that they were all about keeping up appearances. They held my interest but in the end this novel felt more as a family drama or a cosy mystery than the sort of chilling thriller I was expecting. There were different people (all connected to the liquorice factory) who raised some suspicion and the snow skulls added another level of creepiness but the investigation had little to build further on. I admit I like plotlines that feel more dangerous, with lots of tension throughout. It did deliver on that part in the end, which I liked therefore best, but it held out a bit long for my liking. If you have more patience than me and don’t mind a slow burner, or if you just love the winter and wouldn’t mind moving to a cold country, well then you most definitely must read this novel.

I received a free paperback of this novel from Oneworld Publishers. This is my honest opinion.

Bookish gift ideas 2019

Christmas gift ideas for book lovers

It’s officially that time of year. Yep, it’s almost Christmas and it’s time to start looking for gifts for your loved ones (or for yourself). No need to panic though, I’ve got you covered! I’m sure you’ll find some inspiration in the bookish gift ideas I listed for you. Check these out:

GIFT IDEA 1

Etsy : book clock

Book clock

GIFT IDEA 2

Amazon UK: Roy Kirkham Creative Writing Single Breakfast Cup and Saucer

Roy Kirkham cup and saucer

GIFT IDEA 3

Amazon UK: Kikkerland Boiled Wool Bedside Pocket, 22x 28.2x 4 cm, Grey

Beside pocket

GIFT IDEA 4

Literary Emporium : Handmade Tale’s Gift Set

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The Handmaid’s Tale gift set with a t-shirt, enamel pin, book.

GIFT IDEA 5

Amazon.com: DOSS Cloud Book

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DOSS Cloud Book Wireless Portable Bluetooth 4.0 & Wi-Fi Straming Music Speaker

A great idea if you know someone who loves to listen to audiobooks in the living room. You can listen up to 12 hours before recharging.

GIFT IDEA 6

Amazon.com: Night Light

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It says night light but it’s actually a really good reading lamp too. It has a touch-actived led lamp and offers 48 combinations of brighteness and colors. You can play audiobooks from a microSD card, AUXinput or flash drive. You can wirelessly connect your kindle or other device with audiobook app. It has a 4400m AH battery so it’ll last hours and hours.

GIFT IDEA 7

Amazon UK: Word Puzzles for Mystery Lovers

Word Puzzles for Mystery Lovers

Each of the puzzles relates in some way to the wonderful world of MYSTERY NOVELS AND SHOWS.

The Double Jumbles are each based on a quote by a mystery novel writer or one of their characters. Solving these puzzles requires you to unscramble words to find the letters to complete the quote. Double Jumbles have been around for years in the comic ad puzzle section of newspapers. But these jumbles are ALL ABOUT THE MYSTERY / DETECTIVE NOVEL.

The next part offers entertaining word search puzzles, each with a mystery-based theme. To solve the puzzle, find the clues in the letter grid.

In the third section will have five crossword puzzles.

We’ve made our puzzles in large type to make them easier on the eyes. Even our solutions are in an easy-to-read format.

Oh and while you’re at it, why not add these Word Puzzles for Cat Lovers too?

Word Puzzles for Cat Lovers

GIFT IDEA 8

MX Publishing: Dear Holmes

You can become a detective now with Victorian era-mysteries sent to you by mail, or gift a mystery package to someone of course. I love the sound of this (and yes they send international)!

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Dear Holmes

GIFT IDEA 9

Etsy: Coffee and Crime Vintage Mystery Box

One-off or subscription (1 month, 3 month, 6 month and 12 month packages)

Coffee and Crime

In each box you receive:
• A newsletter which highlights upcoming releases, personal favourite reads, puzzles and more!
• Two personally selected surprise vintage mystery novels (although vintage in origin, with some signs of previous use, they will all be in good condition ).
• A sachet of luxury coffee (Great for indulging in whilst reading your latest books). Hot chocolate and tea alternatives are possible too.
• Book/Mystery related goodies, such as notebooks, tote bags, coasters and more!

GIFT IDEA 10

The Literary Tea Company: Agatha Christie Inspired Teas

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GIFT IDEA 11

 

The Booktaster: Christmas Inspired Taster Box

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Included:

A festive inspired handpicked by ‘The Book Taster’
Unique ‘Tasting Card’ – providing tasting notes about the book to wet the reader’s appetite.
A personalised book themed note-card to the recipient
A unique The Book Taster Bookshelf Bookmark
A delicious 100g bar of Christmas Creighton’s Chocolaterie (May contain traces of nuts.)
A selection of Joe’s Tea Company Matchbox Tea Bags
A gorgeous 50g Cinnamon & Orange Clovelly Bar Soap
A beautiful Cinnamon and Orange Votive Candle by The Clovelly Soap Company

GIFT IDEA 12

Crimibox: Missing in Jericho 

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A little heads up, I’ll probably post about the Crimibox at a later time again because I ordered a box from this site (for Dutch readers there are also 5 physical and 2 digital Crimiboxes available in Dutch and I ordered one of these and I’ll receive it in December). The Jericho case (for now the only one in English) is a digital case.

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So, did you see anything you like? Let me know in the comments! Do check out my previous posts: 2018 gift ideas,  2017 gift ideas and 2016 gift ideas.

The Postcard Murder by Paul Worsley QC #BlogTour @midaspr #PaulWorsley #ThePostcardMurder

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Welcome to my stop for The Postcard Murder – A Judge’s Tale by Paul Worsley QC and thanks so much to MidasPR for the invitation to join this blog tour! I have an extract to share with you today but first check out how great this novel sounds.

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It may be of some satisfaction to you, Gentlemen of the Jury, to know that you have been engaged in one of the most remarkable trials that is to be found in the annals of the Criminal Courts of England. Mr Justice Grantham, Judge at the Old Bailey

This is a vintage whodunit set in Edwardian London at a crossroads in time, as social revolution and psychiatry posed new questions for the Law and for the first time the Media were co-opted to run a killer to ground.

The year is 1907: 22-year-old Emily Dimmock lies murdered in her Camden Town flat, her head all but severed from her body. With not a thread or stain or fingerprint to point to the perpetrator, a young artist is manouevred into the shadow of the scaffold.

The tale is told verbatim by witnesses presided over by the author, who draws on his own experience as a Judge at the Old Bailey to get inside the mind of the outspoken but irresolute Mr Justice Grantham. The result is as compelling today as it is definitive of the era in which the murder was committed.

amazon uk amazon com

Author

Paul Worsley was for ten years a judge at the Old Bailey, where the Postcard Murder was tried. He now lives in rural North Yorkshire, where as a practising QC most of his murder cases took place. The Postcard Murder is the first in a series of books in which he gets into the mind of the trial judge in order to lay bare Justice as it was understood and dispensed in the manner of the day.

Extract

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*** Follow the rest of the tour here ***

Paul Worsley QC (1)

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia #BookReview @HMHbooks

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A handsome stranger. A dead billionaire. A citywide treasure hunt. Tuesday Mooney’s life is about to change…forevermore.

Tuesday Mooney is a loner. She keeps to herself, begrudgingly socializes, and spends much of her time watching old Twin Peaks and X-Files DVDs. But when Vincent Pryce, Boston’s most eccentric billionaire, dies—leaving behind an epic treasure hunt through the city, with clues inspired by his hero, Edgar Allan Poe—Tuesday’s adventure finally begins.

Puzzle-loving Tuesday searches for clue after clue, joined by a ragtag crew: a wisecracking friend, an adoring teen neighbor, and a handsome, cagey young heir. The hunt tests their mettle, and with other teams from around the city also vying for the promised prize—a share of Pryce’s immense wealth—they must move quickly. Pryce’s clues can’t be cracked with sharp wit alone; the searchers must summon the courage to face painful ghosts from their pasts (some more vivid than others) and discover their most guarded desires and dreams.

amazon uk amazon com

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When I clocked the novel Tuesday Mooney talks to Ghosts and its blurb, I was sold right away. It was the treasure hunt with clues sprinkled all over the city mentioned in the blurb that made me very excited to read this novel right away. I was beyond thrilled when I was invited to read the book then not long afterwards. With perfect timing because I wanted to read something fun and light this week. This seemed like a YA novel to me at first, at least that’s the impression I had based on the cover and blurb but Tuesday is 30 years old, she has a job as a researcher and she has real grown up problems, like the grief she feels for the people she misses, Abby and her parents, so much so that she’s trying to keep everyone at arm’s length.

The ghostly part of the story worried me a little bit but I hoped all the sleuthing around would make up for it. Surprisingly, the voice of Abby Hobbes, Tuesday’s best friend who went missing 16 years earlier when they were both still teenagers, and whose witty comments accompany Tuesday sometimes, didn’t bother me at all. I really loved how the author kept it all very much in the air whether she was a ghost or conjured up by Tuesday and I felt comfortable with both explanations so I wasn’t disappointed at all in the end. It also helped that Tuesday was realistic enough to question her own sanity at times but listened to and embraced Abby’s thoughts at the same time. That little mystery was brilliantly done as were the multiple other mysteries and surprising twists sprinkled throughout the novel.

It wasn’t all play and games though, with two missing people in the novel for years, a year-long feud between families, and the death of parents, it is more than just good fun. Grief and coping with loss are just a few of the important themes in this novel and I very much enjoyed the message of being yourself in the end as well.

I enjoyed the cast of characters, Tuesday, her best gay friend Dex, sixteen-year old Dorry and Nathaniel who seeks her help to win the game, and the complexitiy they all bring to the story with their own individual struggles. I did find Archie a bit confusing a name at some times because with Arches as a surname I often had to read it twice to check who we were talking about, him or another member of his family. I found the quirky characters a little over the top at times too, but they always remained interesting.

The ending was full of adventure and action, the discovery of Vincent Pryce’s richness and other secrets revealed was grand, sensational and majestic and very very movie worthy.

So, this novel is drama, mystery, romance (just a pinch) and a thriller all balled into one book. It works though, I liked every genre represented and they all blended perfectly together. This book was perfect escapism. If you enjoyed reading A Semi-Definitive List of Possible Nightmares, you’ll enjoy this one too!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. This is still my honest opinion.

The Dead Years by Joseph Schupack #BookReview #Memoir #WWII @AmsterdamPB

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Joseph Schupack has fulfilled a vow to those who did not survive: to write his Holocaust memoirs and offer a unique perspective on the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.

In The Dead Years, Joseph Schupack (1922 – 1989) describes his life in Radzyn-Podlaski, a typical Polish shtetl from where he was transported to the concentration camps of Treblinka, Majdanek, Auschwitz, Dora / Nordhausen and Bergen-Belsen during the Second World War. We witness how he struggled to remain true to his own standards of decency and being human. Considering the premeditated and systematic humiliation and brutality, it is a miracle that he survived and came to terms with his memories.

The Dead Years is different from most Holocaust survivor stories. Not only is it a testimony of the 1930s in Poland and life in the Nazi concentration camps – it also serves as a witness statement. This Holocaust book contains a wealth of information, including the names of people and places, for researchers and those interested in WW2, or coming from Radzyn-Podlaski and surroundings. The book takes us through Joseph Schupack’s pre-war days, his work in the underground movement, and the murder of his parents, brothers, sister and friends.

amazon uk amazon com

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This memoir is not written in the format of a classic storyline but consists of short paragraphs about the various things Joseph Schupack remembered. The writing style is to the point and quite unflinching and since every paragraph is designed to focus on one specific memory, there’s a lot coming at you as a reader. The Dead Years is a book that’s shorter than my average reads with a total count of 209 pages, but I read it deliberately in a few sittings, simply because this memoir mustn’t be rushed and I felt I needed to take my time to let it all sink in.

It is not emotionally written though, there’s a distancing from what happened and most of the time the author doesn’t share his deepest grief or fears (many of his family die but he describes that too in only one or two paragraphs, then skips to something else) but don’t get me wrong, the events he had to live through are so harrowing, so atrocious and incomprehensible that I didn’t really need more emotion, you can feel his pain through the descriptions and his words.

I’ve read some books about WWII before and while I recognize the same torture and barbaric acts in the camps regardless of its location (it’s still incomprehensible how that could be so consistent wherever you were), I hadn’t read any accounts from survivers about the Majdanek extermination camp yet, or how you were already destined to be everyone’s scapegoat if you happened to be born a Jew in Poland pre-war. Long before the deportations began, life was already all about surviving. The reality was very grim. I read about all the Aktionen that were used, new rules coming in vigor each Friday, and how that deprived them of their freedoms, having to move house several times, giving up valuables, being forbidden to listen to the radio, or coming together at night, just to name a few. There’re a lot more abhorrent and wicked actions that were being undertaken at that time, and they didn’t all happen in the camps. The Dead Years certainly contributed to form a bigger picture of Poland’s landscape as he tells what is often unheard of. I also appreciated that Joseph Schupack told about the days and weeks that followed after the liberation. I was astonished that people in his home town were still holding on to this anti-semetic ideology.

Joseph Schupack was a strong man and his strong mind and a good dose of luck made him a survivor. Only the ending left me a bit sad though, it was a bit abrupt and the author seemed bitter for reasons that the reader can’t really comprehend because he didn’t elaborate but were about a life-long friendship which turned sour. I felt it was a bit of a shame those were the last words of his book (he listed 3 important dates/moments after that but that was more of an afterword).

The Dead Years was an unapologetic read, powerful and poignant. The cruelty of people has no limits and it’s hard to believe we’re the same species as the people who did all this. This book definitely left its mark.

I received a free paperback copy of this novel courtesy of Amsterdam Publishers. This is my honest opinion.

Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton #BookReview #BWR

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WHEN ESTHER THOREL, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.

INSIDE THE THORELS’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.

IT IS SILK that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household and set the scene for a devastating day of reckoning between her and Sara.

THE PRICE OF a piece of silk may prove more than either is able to pay.

amazon uk amazon com

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Two women, Sara and Esther, are the narrators in Blackberry and Wild Rose, a historical novel situated in the year 1768. This shared responsibility for telling the story in alternating chapters is exactly what makes it such a fascinating novel.

While they are both subservient women, they hold very different positions in life. Sara becomes a servant in the Thorel household and Esther Thorel is the wife – literally ‘only’ the wife – to a very prominent silk weaver. The women are tied with their hands and feet to their social roles and I followed them while trying to fulfill their hopes and dreams. Sadly, there’s hardly a connection between them despite their similarities, it does not spark any sympathy for the other woman and if anything, they stand firm and tall in their own corner. Is their anything that can ever bring them closer together?

Even though Sara is obviously the underdog and is to be pitied, I sympathised significantly more with Esther and never really warmed to Sara throughout the story. It’s difficult to understand why she wasn’t grateful (any job would seem better to me than working in a brothel and Esther did save her from a lifelong debt) and I can’t attribute a lot of positive traits to her character. My heart did go out to her a few times towards the end though when I finally saw the deep feelings she was in fact able to develop for someone even though it might hurt her in the end.

But overall I found more enjoyment reading about Esther’s encounters with Bisby Lambert, a journeyman silk weaver who is allowed to use the spare loom in the Thorel attic to weave his own masterpiece. I hardly knew anything about silk weaving so a whole new world opened up to me and it was fascinating and educational to read about the looms and the process of weaving silks. There was also a beautiful chemistry between them that rejoiced me enormously.

Jealousy, secrecy, desires, and then… oh lord, a betrayal so deep you might not recover. It all leads the story towards that one point where they’ll have to make a certain choice, one ultimate moment of deciding whether to give support to the other woman or turn their back in the other one’s hour of need and even worse, be the one responsible for casualties. I was very dubious they would make the correct moral decision. The situation took a turn for the worse and I crossed all my fingers this would have a happy ending. In a way it did but also it very much didn’t, but it was satisfying nonetheless.

Blackberry and Wild Rose was brilliantly atmospheric and a thoroughly enjoyable debut. She’s going to make me a true historical novel buff if she keeps this up, you’ll see.

I received a free paperback copy of the novel from the publisher, Quercus Books. This is my honest opinion.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech #BookReview

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Be careful what you wish for…
Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t…

Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…

Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it? What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart…

amazon uk amazon com

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What is there to say except that it was… exceptional! After finishing Call Me Star Girl I wanted to see if another story would have a similar effect on me. So, a few weeks later I’m on my second Louise Beech novel and I can officially say that I have added her to my list of must-read authors. This novel is, again, heartbreakingly beautiful.

I loved reading about Ben’s adventure in Zimbabwe with the lions. I had put off reading this novel for soooo long because I was afraid to find out what the setting would entail. I have such a tiny heart when it comes to animals and I thought it might be depressing or that there would be a mention of animal cruelty towards the lions but it was quite the opposite, it gave me so much joy to read how Ben tried to create a bond with his lion cub. Of course Ben had to say goodbye at some point and that was hard but it was also a satisfying and beautiful moment, so if this is the only thing keeping you from reading this as well then I can tell you, you need to pick it up pronto, as you’re really missing out on an amazing story. No, the hardest parts of the novel were definitely yet to come and had really nothing to do with the animals but with Ben, Andrew and their families.

When Ben was in Zimbabwe I knew he had such strong feelings for Andrew but for some reason he had left him behind and they had no contact. I couldn’t imagine why that was and I first suspected it was for some trivial reason but that didn’t last long as it was quickly replaced – her previous novel working as my reference point – with a sense that it would go deeper than that, and I was so right! If you’re thinking this is just a run of the mill love story, you are dead wrong. This is an unprecedented love story, one I haven’t read before. Oh how I felt for Ben and Andrew and the whole impossibility of the situation. Andrew is older than Ben and has long come out but Ben is afraid of the reaction he’ll get, especially from his father. As if that wasn’t enough, Louise Beech ripped my heart apart with more tragedy. Have I already told you that I love star-crossed lovers themes and Romeo and Juliet are forever in my heart? Well I had the same feel here, Ben and Andrew’s initials are not only carved in a tree but also in my heart. Oh and that wishbox, that damn box… when I realised what was in there, god I wanted to stop time, I wanted to go back in time, anything to avoid that moment where everything would collide as in a heads-on car crash.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is a remarkable novel, it left me spoilt and spent. She’s only done it again. I highly highly recommend this novel and even though I didn’t cry, I did have a lump in my throat and felt emotional. So did Call Me Star Girl though so the struggle for favorite novel so far is real. Because Star Girl was the first one – first love – I’ll keep it at first place but you don’t need to twist my arm. Either way, I can’t wait to read her next novel and become all emotional all over again!

I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.