#BookReview (by Lou) Who Is Vera Kelly? By Rosalie Necht @Verve_Books @RosalieKnecht @OldcastleBooks @holliemcdevitt #CrimeFiction #SpyFiction

Who Is Vera Kelly
By Rosalie Knecht
Rated: 5 stars *****

Who Is Vera Kelly? Well that’s something I wanted to know and got curious about, when I was invited to review by Hollie McDevitt at Old Castle/ No Exit Books, then there’s the cover, which is not what anyone would expect, but fits with the time and all of this combined makes this reviewer want to see what can possibly be inside, such a vibrant, strong sounding book!
There are also Book Club questions at the back.

About The Author

 

Photo by Seze Devres for Ace Hotel New York

Rosalie Knecht is the author of Who Is Vera Kelly?Vera Kelly Is Not A Mystery and Relief Map. She is also the translator of César Aira’s The Seamstress and the Wind (New Directions). She lives in New Jersey.  

Blurb

whoisverakellycoverNew York City, 1962. Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She’s working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA.Next thing she knows she’s in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of student activists in Buenos Aires. As Vera becomes more and more enmeshed with the young radicals, the fragile local government begins to split at the seams. When a betrayal leaves her stranded in the wake of a coup, Vera learns war makes for strange and unexpected bedfellows, and she’s forced to take extreme measures to save herself.

An exhilarating page turner and perceptive coming-of-age story, Who is Vera Kelly? introduces an original, wry and whip-smart female spy for the twenty-first century.

whoisverakellycover

Review

Set in the late 1957 and early 1966 and between Maryland and Argentina, Vera Kelly has come from being a troubled person, who is failing in her studies, attending counselling sessions with Miss Kay and getting on the wrong side of the law and taking up some jobs, to later (in the 60’s) becoming recruited as a spy. It’s a slow burn and it is good that there is the political background about how Juan Peron (in exile at this point) and Eva Peron (Evita – dead by then, but being immortalised in artworks of sorts), are still on people’s lips. The book shows the political complexities of Argentina, without making it too complex to read. It’s also pertinent about how easily impressionable students can get mixed up in ideaologies. This spy is on a mission as Communism is infiltrating the country and students are being recruited to join them.
There is also Nico, who she meets in Buenos Aires, who happens to know everyone and everything, more or less. There is also the matter of the president of the construction firm, Aliadas, who is also concerned about the Communists and what they may do to the company.
It feels dark and sinister at times and at certain points, it becomes a more intense and compelling book than it starts off with, as there is a plot, involving explosivesShe meets Nico in Buenos Aires in 1966 and it turns out he knows everyone and everything and worked his way up in the world, right from the very bottom. The company president of Aliadas is however, worried about the Communists and what they might do to the construction firm. There is also what the Communists are doing in recruiting impressionable students. It’s politically interesting and even though it is set in the 50’s and 60’s, it shows a certain amount about how students are easily recruited into things then as they are in this whole new millenium. It also references, briefly, Juan Peron, although no longer in Argentina, his name was still on people’s lips, and Evita, at this point – dead, but her image in graffiti. It shows the political complexities of Argentina in a way that isn’t too much or too heavy. Vera is on a mission, involving surveilling subversive students, it’s an intense and compelling book, which feels dark and sinister and tugs to draw readers in deeper, but Vera Kelly can certainly hold her own, with her technological know-how, as there is a terror plot to tackle, which all adds to an intriguing new spy story, which is a great addition to any spy collection

Who is Vera Kelly blog tour poster

The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman @CharityNorman1 @AllenAndUnwin #TheSecretsofStrangers #RandomThingsTours #Thriller #CrimeFiction #BlogTour #Review #MustRead

The Secrets of Strangers
by Charity Norman
Rated: 5 stars *****

Tense, compelling, touching, The Secret of Strangers is an excellent read. I can well see why the author has made it to the Radio 2 Bookclub and with a previous book – The Richard and Judy Bookclub. It is with thanks to the publisher Allen & Unwin that I have the great opportunity for reviewing The Secrets of Strangers – a stand-alone novel. It’s a Must Read thriller set in a cafe and one, I am ecstatic to share with you as a tale of one gunman and three hostages unfolds. I loved this book so, so much!!! Read on for more info and my full review, that I’ve approached from a slightly different angle this time of writing it.

About the Author

The Secret of Strangers Charity Norman Author PicCharity Norman was born in Uganda and brought up in successive draughty vicarages in Yorkshire and Birmingham. After several years’ travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law. In 2002, realising that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. THE SECRETS OF STRANGERS is her sixth novel.

 

Secrets of Strangers Cover

Blurb

A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for five strangers whose paths cross in a London café – their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage.

But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives?

Another tense, multi-dimensional drama from the writer of the Richard & Judy bestseller After the Fall.

Review

This book is absolutely terrific and so unputdownable. Sleep eluded me. I didn’t want to get to the end because I seriously didn’t want to have to leave this book and yet I really, really needed to see how it would all end. It was seriously that good and it’s a book I imagine I will read again someday. I was pulled into this book gripping book within the first few pages and time knew no bounds as it ticked on by as the pages turned ever so easily from one to the next, never stopping to look at a clock.

Told through 6 main characters – Abi, Eliza, Mutesi, Sam, Neil, Rosie as they more or less take on the chapters, this is a captivating book which is incredibly well-written and the more I read, the more I want to keep going through the intensity of what is ultimately an eloquently told story within the premise of a hostage situation in a cafe. This is a story of the time of being taken hostage and the very human story surrounding this and how people get to know each other a little more and about the secrets they have.

Meet the characters:

Neil is quickly established as being homeless, but used to work for a company making medical equipment. He used to be a teacher prior to being made homeless and has quite a story to tell.

Abi works as a barrister and has worked on many cases. She has also been struggling to conceive, even with IVF with Charlie. It’s emotive.

Mutesi cleans in the church – St. Judes and is a nurse in a carehome and you wonder what more there is to her, which is discovered in the book.

Eliza works for the MET in the serious crime unit and is also a hostage negotiator. She has a family – a teenage son and a husband – Richard who is self-employed. It was all love at first sight, whilst travelling on a train on the beautiful East Coast Railway. A line I have travelled often on, as has many people. She has quite a role to play as is involved in negotations.

Sam at 8 years old, helps around his parent’s farm and is keen to be a farmer and less keen on school, where he gets support for his dyslexia. I do love how his dad likes when the school is on summer holidays and comes across as having a terrific attitude to them. This is until tragedy strikes. Everything changed! Psychologically everything changed. There is a powerful theme within that, handled sensitively and so well as destruction ensues. More secrets come out and there’s some cause and effect that is presented in the story. There’s some sinister goings on with him being manipulated for years. It is interesting to see how and why he ends up where he is as an adult.

Rosie – despises her dad- until she really needs his help that is and is interesting how that unfolds

The rest of my thoughts on what is an exceptional book

There’s a lovely sounding cafe called Tuckbox, whose usual hustle and bustle is disturbed one day when a gun man walks in and the atmosphere rapidly changes and there’s a real sense of urgency in the writing as circumstances change.

 The tension that builds is just phenomenal, as is the clarity of writing and that with the music references that are scattered throughout works so well together.
What else that is is so great about reading this book, is it is so easy to follow because it flows so well from character to character. The book really is like looking into The Tuckshop Cafe and seeing exactly where each character is and what’s happening in each of their lives at every step of the hostage situation they find themselves in.

You feel the anguish of each person as the hostage situation builds and also at times, an almost claustrophobic atmosphere as they try and find hiding places to keep safe. Also as tension builds up, so do the characters as readers get a deeper insight into their lives.

There’s the sense of danger and delicacy of negotiating the hostage taker, that is written so naturally and well.

What else can be said, except, this is an exceptional book that I highly recommend as a Must Read.

Do follow the rest of the tour too.

The Secrets of Strangers BT Poster

 

Happy World Book Day #WorldBookDay 2020 #Books #Bookish #CrimeFiction #Fiction #NonFiction #Kidslit #PictureBook #HistoricalFiction #History #Romance #Biography #ContemporaryFiction

Happy World Book Day 2020

Happy World Book Day and I hope that everyone is having a fabulous day, however you are celebrating. There are many author events going on around the UK in public and community libraries as well as schools. There are also lots of other bookish events too that can be participated in as you read for pleasure. There are also other ways you can participate in World Book Day, if you cannot attend an event, such as, curling up with a good book and leaving an author a review on Waterstones and Amazon.

Today I am attending a World Book Day Event to hear a talk by rising star Alison Belsham, author of The Tattoo Thief and then it will be my turn to host an event up here in Scotland too on Monday with Liz Treacher – author of The Wrong Envelope and The Wrong Direction.

I also have some great books in my review pile for both adult and children that are being published between this month and summer.

In the pile I am currently reading are fiction and non-fiction books. In no particular order of publication or review dates, look out for book one of a new series by Ben Kane – Made in Battle, Forged in War; Us Three by Ruth Jones (yes, the actor/writer from Gavin and Stacey and author of Never Greener); Eileen – The Making of George Orwell, Eileen was his wife, but not much is known about her, until now…; Paper Sparrows; A Conspiracy of Bones – the latest book by Kathy Reichs; I return to reviewing again for Lesley Kelly for her book Murder at the Music Factory – the latest in the health of Strangers series (read as a series or stand alone); I return to The Bobby Girls series to review the latest book – The Bobby Girl’s Secrets to see what the police volunteers are up to in their second and newest book.

I return to Janey Louise Jones children’s books to see what else Princess Poppy has in store now she has worked out how to save the bees. This time she is tackling plastic. I also will be reviewing for a charity Helping Hands who have had the Duchess of York on board to craete books  about how to tackle bullying, first days at school and strangers. There is a fantasy book to continue the series about Akra The Healing Stone, by Vacyn Taylor and a new book – Snow Child by a new author – Larraine Harrison.

This is just a few of the books sitting on my pile to date that you will start to see full reviews for soon. So, lots of books for you to look forward to exploring and to see what I think of. Coming up very soon are some children’s books and then an adult thriller that Lee Child and many other authors have a lot of praise for.

I of course thank all the authors, publishers and blog tour organisers for all these amazing opportunities to review and of course I thank just as equally, the readers of my blog as without everyone, my blog couldn’t exist.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley – Rated 5 Stars – Keeps you guessing right to the end @LucyFoleyTweets @HarperCollinsUK #RandomThingsTours #TheGuestList #CrimeFiction #BlogTour #Review

The Guest List
By Lucy Foley
Rated: 5 Stars *****

The brand-new thriller from the Sunday Times No.1 bestselling author of The
Hunting Party, one of the fastest selling & highly acclaimed debut thrillers of 2019

I am so pleased and excited to be part of this wonderful blog tour. What a terrific book. Just Wow!!! I loved it and could not put it down. Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to the blog tour and thank you and the publisher – Harper Collins for a print copy of The Guest List by critically acclaimed author Lucy Foley for me to review. My friends joke that I do not sleep, well I certainly slept less than normal reading this book, it is that good! There are twists and turns and an all-consuming atmosphere and characters you want to read about. Get ready for a far from normal wedding night, where not everyone will survive. I highly recommend it. Read on for the blurb and my full review.

About the Author

Guest List Lucy Foley Author PicLucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time.
The Hunting Party, an instant Sunday Times and Irish Times no.1 bestseller, was Lucy’s debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination. Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages.
Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

Blurb

Guests are called to a remote island off the Irish coast to celebrate the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules and Will. Everything has been meticulously planned, the scene is set, old friends are back together.
It should be the perfect day.
Until the discovery of a body signals the perfect murder.
A groom with a secret.
A bridesmaid with a grudge.
A plus one with motive.
A best man with a past.
It could be any, it could be all . . . But one guest won’t make it out
alive.

The Guest List Cover

Review

The book starts on the wedding night. The atmosphere is created instantly. I have not read any of Lucy Foley’s previous books, although watched with much interest as many people had great things to say about her writing. I feel so lucky to have the privilege to review her latest book – The Guest List. Just a few words in and there is already an eerieness that you would not expect on a wedding night.

The book skillfully introduces each of the main players of this wedding in individual chapters and goes through them one by one and back to them, as well as their being specifically wedding day chapters. There is Aoife the Wedding Planner, Jules the Bride, Johnno the Best Man and Olivia the Bridesmaid and Hannah the Plus One.

It should be the happiest night – the wedding night. You would maybe expect dancing, jovial conversation, love…. This however, is no ordinary night on this remote island…

Aoife and her other half – Freddie are interesting characters. In Aiofe, there is an insight to being a wedding planner and some of it is profoundly thought-provoking. She throws up questions about how much do couples really know each other and how much is hidden, even from a loved one. The 15th century Folly they have restored sounds beautiful. The descriptions make it sound elegant and captures a warm feeling around its grandeur and beauty, except it is on an island with an unsavoury past, which is learnt through guests, Charlie (who is married to the plus one – Hannah) and Mattie.

There’s a strange friendship between the groom – Will and best man – Johnno and I am even more intrigued as to why the bride things something may not be quite right.

Olivia, the bridesmaid has a difficult time and has reasons to tell lies and also holds a grudge.

With Champagne flowing and a bit of weed, the emotions rise and the secrets start to come out. There is also an intriguing warning note about the groom, just to heighten the curiosity and the need to keep reading onwards.

Lucy Foley has a skill to know just when to add to the intrigue, to add another layer and to add to that need to read some more. She has all the skill base of Agatha Christie. That ability to lure you into a web of red-herrings and secrets and lies and yet, even though on a remote island a murder has been committed, which of course is terrible, the book makes you feel all cosy and want to curl up with it whatever location you’re in.

The nuances in her characters expressions are so well-observed. The bride at one point looks how you would perhaps expect her to look, but a slight difference in the mouth tells a different story, of something hiding underneath. A word or two says it all or makes you question and wonder will come next. 

The tension levels are very good as some huge secrets start to be discovered. On one hand I don’t want the book to end, on the other, I really want to see how it does all end.

The characters are ones to follow and I loved getting to know more about them as the story goes on.

The ending is terrifically done. This book does not disappoint.

The book is as good as what is known as the Golden-Age in crime and is brought right up-to-date. It is an immersive and extremely well-crafted crime book. Each part wants you to turn the page.

This is an un-putdownable book. Beauty sleep? What is that again? Forget sleep and read instead. I was so absorbed that I had forgotten all about the time that had raced ahead without me even noticing. I highly recommend this book and I would read more by Lucy Foley. She’s one to watch and worth having in your crime collection.

 

 

 

Bury Them Deep By James Oswald @SirBenfro @Wildfirebks @headlinepg @RandomThingsTours @annecater #BlogTour #CrimeFiction #Thriller

Bury Them Deep
By James Oswald
Rated: 5 Stars *****

I am so delighted to be, once again reviewing on this blog tour for James Oswald’s book, this time – Buried Deep on the Random Things Blog Tour. I must say that James Oswald has outdone himself with Bury Them Deep. Absolute congratulations to him for reaching his 10th Inspector McLean novel. There is a lot of high quality writing here. There is plenty to hook people into this book and once hooked, that’s it, so leave plenty of time to read because there is so much readers will want to try to discover.

James Oswald Bury Them Deep BT Poster

About the Author

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJAMES OSWALD is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries, as well as the new DC Constance Fairchild series. James’s first two
books, NATURAL CAUSES and THE BOOK OF SOULS, were both short-listed for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award. BURY THEM DEEP is the tenth book in the Inspector Mclean Series.
James farms Highland cows and Romney sheep by day, writes disturbing fiction by night.

Blurb

The tenth book in the Sunday Times-bestselling Inspector McLean series, from one of Scotland’s most celebrated crime writers.

When a member of the Police Scotland team fails to clock-in for work, concern for her
whereabouts is immediate… and the discovery of her burnt-out car in remote woodland
to the south of Edinburgh sets off a desperate search for the missing woman.
Meanwhile, DCI Tony McLean and the team are preparing for a major anti-corruption
operation – one which may raise the ire of more than a few powerful people in the city. Is
Anya Reynolds’ disappearance a co-incidence or related to the case?
McLean’s investigations suggest that perhaps that Anya isn’t the first woman to have
mysteriously vanished in these ancient hills. Once again, McLean can’t shake the feeling
that there is a far greater evil at work here…
The truth far more chilling than a simple cold case…

Jamees Oswald Bury Them Deep Cover

Review

Bury Them Deep gets off to an excellent start that instantly adds intrigue as to who hates herself and why?

Enter readers, into the streets of Edinburgh and to Operation Caterwaul, something that those on the force with clearance are working on, but there’s an issue. Anya Renfrew, who was working on the operation has mysteriously not turned up for work and so little actually seems to be known about her, as her life is pieced together. It leaves MacLean trying to pour over notes and question suspects and trying to find out as much information as possible, no matter how uncomfortable it becomes, from the doctor treating Norman Bale and even wondering what people on the force know. There is also the question of where she actually spent most of her time residing and what, if anything, a gardener knew.

I think it is ingenious that the more that is attempted to be found out about Anya, the less information there seems to be and the more questions there are. She is quite the enigma! This keeps me utterly intrigued to know who this woman is, what’s happened to her and why has she gone missing with no real trace. It keeps me turning the pages, desperately and hungrily wanting to know more as I find myself buried deep within the 450 pages, totally engrossed and involved with a need to discover what exactly is going to happen next and more about Anya.

There is also money laundering and subsequent fact-finding accountancy raids in Ayr and Aberdeen, jittery Americans, public service cuts and McLean wasn’t on the top clearance list for the operation.

I like the characterisation and the different voices and the build up of suspicion amongst everyone.

Forensics are soon on the case as there are human remains found in the investigative work, but from more than one person and it is questionable whether any belong to Anya Renfrew or not.

The atmosphere of the sometimes slight eeriness and uneasiness is a terrific combination with the intrigue and tension that builds as the story takes some twists and turns that are deftly written. From beginning to end, this book is gripping.

This is James Oswald’s 10th Inspector McLean novel and here’s to another 10.

*With thanks to James Oswald for a thoughtful signed copy of the book.

*My review is unbiased.

Great books from 2019 – Happy New Year and Happy Reading #HappyNewYear #2019books #2019wrapup #MyYearinBooks #BestBooks #MustReads #amreading #readingforpleasure #books #CrimeFiction #Thriller #FamilySaga #Saga #Historical #Kidslit #YA #NonFiction #Fiction #Fantasy #UpLit #Bookish

Great Books to check out and read from 2019

I have read and reviewed so many books this year. I have decided to follow the trend of compiling an end of year list of what I would consider “The Must Read or Top 2019 Books. The list will be in no particular order, but will be broken down into genre. Here you will find great Children’s Books and Young Adult books, followed by all types of crime fiction; followed by general fictional books; followed by family saga/historical fiction; followed by fantasy; followed by non-fiction/autobiographical/biographical.
Firstly, I would like to say a few thanks:

I am incredibly grateful to everyone however who contacts me through my blog or Twitter, interacts with me, sends me books to review, either personally or through publishing houses. I am grateful for the generosity of authors, publishers and bloggers for sharing my reviews on their social media platforms and websites. I thank publishers and authors for considering me and for giving me the responsibility of reviewing their books. Reviewing someone’s work is something I don’t do lightly. A lot of thought goes into it all and also I am so conscious that what is in my hands at that moment is someone’s hard work and, whether I’ve met the person/people face to face or not, I am always aware of them being human too. I must say that I do love writing my blog and I appreciate every opportunity I have ever had that has come with writing it.

I also thank those authors, publishers and bloggers who have been kind and generous in other ways too, such as help with the community library I currently lead. You know who you are and I am eternally grateful.

Now onto the lists. I hope people find something new, some inspiration or are perhaps reminded that they want to check out a book. The books on the list are all on my blog, so feel free to check out the full reviews. The books can be borrowed from libraries, bought from bookshops and are also e-books on the various e-book platforms.

Children and Young Adult Fiction


Princess Poppy – Please, Please Save the Bees by Janey Louise Jones
Timothy Mean and the Time Machine by William A.E. Ford
The Hangry Hamster by Grace McCluskey
Leo and the Lightning Dragons by Gill White
Toletis by Rafa Ruiz
The Age of Akra by Vacen Taylor

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty
10 Things to do Before You Leave School by Bernard O’Keefe (YA)

Crime Fiction , including Thrillers and Political Thrillers

Absolution by Adam Croft
Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver
In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone

Nothing to Hide by James Oswald
The Poisoned Rock by Robert Daws
Death at the Plague Museum by Lesley Kelly
The Killing Rock by Robert Daws
In Plain Sight by Adam Croft
Sealed with a Death by James Sylvester
Hands Up by Stephen Clark
The Silence of Severance by Wes Markin
A Friend In Deed by G.D. Harper

General Fiction

 


The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris
Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami
A Summer to Remember by Sue Moorcroft
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls
Let it Snow by Sue Moorcroft
Summer at the Kindness Café by Victoria Walters
Secret Things and Highland Flings by Tracy Corbett
Sunshine and Secrets – The Paradise Cookery School by Daisy James

Family Saga/Historical Fiction

Bobby Girls coverHeady HeightsTime will tell book

Bobby Girls by Johanna Bell
Welcome to the Heady Heights by David F.Frost

Time Will Tell by Eva Jordan

Fantasy

The Blue Salt Road Joanne HarrisThe Old Dragon's Head Coveer

The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris (YA and Adult)
The Old Dragon’s Head by Justin Newland

The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet
Zippy and Me by Ronnie Le Drew
First in the Fight 20 Women Who Made Manchester by Helen Antrobus
The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

I have some books to review already and working on them for 2020.
I’ve plenty of exciting things to be blogging about in 2020 and hopefully many more exciting opportunities will crop up in the future. I will also be publishing brief resumes of great theatre shows from 2018 and 2019, most of which are still running, going to tour nationally in the UK and some of which come back every so often, so could be ones to look out for in the future.
For now, I hope you enjoy what I have for my 2019 resumes and all else that is on my blog. I hope you all had a great Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2020. Thank you too for following and reading my blog, without such, it wouldn’t exist. I love writing my blog and always grateful to those who give me opportunities to review and to write and to talk to people and to those who read what I write. Thank you!!!!

As I didn’t do this in 2018, here is a quick run down of the best books I read then. 
Fiction – Stealth by Hugh Fraser, Antiques and Alibis by Wendy H. Jones, The Wrong Direction by Liz Treacher, A Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft.
Non -Fiction – An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe, Charles Dickens by Simon Callow, Fill my Stocking by Alan Titchmarsh.
Young Adult – Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian by J.M. Smith
Children’s books – The Treasure At the Top of The World by Clive Mantle.
Reviews can be found on my blog. Please note the Christmas books are reviewed within one blog post with quick reviews.

Happy New Year 2020

 

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