Dot Scribbles

30.4.16

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan

She's hopes he's done with trouble. But is trouble done with him?
Some crimes can never be forgotten. But when Lizzie's brother comes home after serving his time, she tells herself that folk will turn a blind eye.
Lizzie is wrong. And she and her girls will pay the price.
Ten years to repent.
Ten years to forgive,
Ten days for revenge. 

Publisher: Penguin

The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan is a stunning debut novel. Set in a small praire town in West Texas, Ronan creates a tale that is terrifying and captivating at the same time.
Lizzie's brother Jasper has spent ten years in prison and he is now returning to the family home that Lizzie shares with her two young daughters Katie and Joanne. Lizzie has no idea what to expect, she just hopes that the people in their small town will see that Jasper has served his time and allows him to move on with his life. That simply does not happen though and soon everything that Lizzie holds dear is put in jeopardy and for what; does she truly know the man she has let into her home?
I've read some reviews of this book that have criticised it as being slow but I can't agree. I think that Vanessa Ronan uses the pace to reflect the atmosphere of the small town setting, she then adds layer upon layer of tension until it almost becomes unbearable.
I loved the relationship between Jasper and Lizzie's youngest daughter Joanne, It very much captured childhood innocence, Joanne doesn't care that Jasper has done, she just wants to be his friend.
I highly recommend The Last Days of Summer, Vanessa Ronan is an exciting new author.

Many thanks to Penguin for sending me a copy of this book to review.

27.4.16

BOOK REVIEW: Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes

Welcome to the magnificent Making It Up As I Go Along by Marian Keyes- A bold, brilliant book bursting with Marian's hilarious and heartfelt observations on modern life, love and much, much more else besides. Such as? You are determined to ask. Well, how about her guide to breaking up with your hairdresser? Or the warning she has for us all after a particularly traumatic fling with fake tan. There's the pure and bounteous joy of the nail varnish museum. Not to mention the very best lies to tell if you find yourself on an Arctic cruise. She has words of advice for those fast approaching fifty. And she's here to tell you the secret truth about writers- well this one anyway.
You'll be wincing in recognition and scratching your head in incredulity, but like Marian herself you won't be able to stop laughing at the sheer delightful absurdity that is modern life- because each and every one of us is clearly making it up as we go along.

Publisher: Michael Joseph

I cannot fully convey my excitement when I saw that Marian Keyes had a new book out. I have read every single book by this fabulous author and I think that Making It Up As I Go Along is going to make her readers very happy.
The book is a collection of articles written by Marian, some have already been published but others have never been in print before. It is perfect to dip in and out of if you wish or devour entirely. I find Marian's writing so friendly and inviting; it is as though she is sitting across the table from you, having a chat.
There were so many moments when I thought 'I'm so glad it's not just me that has happened to' and that is what Marian does best, her honesty is endearing it makes you want to keep turning the pages.
Serious topics are also covered such as Marian's depression and addictive personality, it's so refreshing to have someone just tell it like it is rather than using fancy jargon or trying to paint the best picture.
This is not  a long review as in reality all I can tell you is that this book is simply wonderful, Making It Up As I Go Along is a breath of fresh air and a book that I will revisit again and again!

Many thanks to Michael Joseph for allowing me to review this book via Netgalley.

15.4.16

BLOG TOUR: Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker

I'm very pleased to be on the blog tour today for Chris Whitaker's book, Tall Oaks, I really enjoyed this book and it was quite a different read for me. The author has kindly written a post for Dot Scribbles to share with you on this blog tour:

Writing a book set in America

From books to films to television shows, I’ve long been a fan of the ‘small town America’ setting. There’s something fascinating about the dynamics at work in a close-knit community. I remember being totally captivated by the Finch family in To Kill A Mockingbird, unable to put down Boy’s Life because I was so enthralled by Cory Jay Mackenson and the town of Zephyr, and eagerly waiting each and every visit I’ve paid to Castle Rock over the years.
Also as a reader I quite enjoy the escapism of a story based a world away from my own life. And as a writer I found exactly the same to be true. So it was with this in mind that I decided to set the fictional town of Tall Oaks 5,000 miles away from home. 

The American setting also made some of the plot points possible in way that wouldn’t be had I set the story in the UK. I really wanted to capture the feeling that Jim, the policeman in Tall Oaks, was very much working the case alone, with little support. The sheer size of America made this feel much more plausible, with resources stretched thin and serious crime raining down relentlessly. I wanted the Harry Monroe abduction quickly pushed from the front pages, it further adds to Jess’s (Harry’s mother) feeling of desperation, that more isn’t being done, that nobody cares anymore.

After I’d settled on America, drawn a rough map of the town and the surrounding areas, I then began to think about where exactly to base the town. Tall Oaks is affluent, the kind of sought after place that the rich would choose to live. The houses are large, the streets lined with trees. The story takes place during a sticky, oppressive summer. There’s a national park that borders the town. After some research I decided on California. It seemed a natural fit once I’d taken everything into account.

I then came to the challenges of actually writing a book set in America. And there were lots. Perhaps the biggest was the language barrier. I knew there were differences, trousers are pants, football is soccer, garden is yard. But there were loads that I missed. Thankfully my copyeditor was particularly brilliant when it came to catching my mistakes and stopping me from looking like a complete ass (arse). See, I’m getting the hang of it!
I also had to ensure that the description of the town itself was accurate, from making sure that the flowers growing were the type found in California, to checking what the houses should look like, and which shops might be found on Main Street. I also did lots of research into how a missing child investigation would be handled by a small town police chief.

It’s so important to me to make the story feel authentic, and I really hope I’ve managed it.

Here's the synopsis and my review of the book:

When three year old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town.
Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.
Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures.
Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake,
Photographer Jerry, who's determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.
And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own...

Tall Oaks is Chris Whitaker's debut novel and I have to say that he is off to an excellent start. Tall Oaks, a tiny American town is rocked by the disappearance of a three year old boy, taken from his own bed in the middle of the night. In such a small town, everybody wants to be involved and help desperate  mother Jess to find her little boy; the problem is, it could easily be one of the locals who took the child.
Chris Whitaker follows several of the town's inhabitants, from the police detective on the case, to the guy in the camera shop who still lives with his mum, from the car dealership guy to the local teenager who thinks he's Tony Soprano. It took me a little while to get a hold on all the characters but they were all fantastic creations. Manny was my favourite, he's the teenager who would like to be a gangster; his one-liners added the humour that this book needed and I was always pleased when he popped back up in the story.
This book is extremely dark too, the disappearance of three year old Harry is upsetting enough but as we get to know the characters, it is clear that there are many disturbed inhabitants of Tall Oaks and many dysfunctional relationships and secrets.
Chris Whitaker writes at a good pace and the ending of the book took me completely by surprise. For a debut novel it is fantastic and I hope that the author has great success with it.

Many thanks to Emily for inviting me to be part of the blog tour and providing me with a review copy. 


11.4.16

BOOK REVIEW: Playing With Fire by Tess Gerritsen

What if your child wanted you dead?
Julia doesn't understand why her daughter has so violently turned against her, but she thinks she knows what's causing it. She is terrified for Lily, and for herself, but what scares her more is that no one believes her.
If she is going to help Lily, she must find the answers alone, embarking on a search that will take her halfway around the world, to Venice.
There, Julia uncovers a heart-breaking, long-buried tale of tragedy and devastation- a discovery that puts her in serious danger. Some people will do anything in their power to keep the truth silent...whatever the cost. 

Publisher: Bantam Press
Pages: 283

I've finally got round to reading Tess Gerritsen's latest book. I flew through it and enjoyed it but I did feel that it was very different to her other stand alone books.
Julia finds a piece of music hidden in an antique book that she buys. On playing the music, strange things begin to happen, especially to her daughter Lily who seems to have turned against her. Julia becomes terrified of her own child and she is convinced that her strange behaviour is connected to the music that she found. She sets out on a search that takes her all the way to Venice; a tragic tale with consequences reaching into the present is uncovered putting Julia in grave danger.
Playing With Fire flits between the present day and the time of the Holocaust. I really was not expecting the historical fiction element of the book but I felt that it was very well done. I thought that Tess Gerritsen presented the story of the persecuted Jews in Italy very well; it was not something that I knew a lot about and the research done in order to create an accurate account was clear to see.
This book felt a little more like a horror than a thriller, the scenes between Julia and Lily were particularly sinister and frightening and this tension was maintained throughout the book. I would highly recommend Playing With Fire, it was interesting to see Tess Gerritsen going in a slightly different direction and she is still one of my favourite authors.

5.4.16

BLOG TOUR: The Girl Who Walked in Shadows by Marnie Riches

I am very pleased to be on the blog tour today for Marnie Riches' fantastic new book The Girl Who Walked in Shadows. If you haven't read any of Marnie's books yet then you are truly missing out, her two previous 'Euro crime' books, The Girl Who Wouldn't Die and The Girl Who Broke the Rules were fantastic, just click on the links to read my reviews. 
The Girl Who Walked in Shadows has just been published, here's the synopsis:

The third edge-of-your-seat thriller in the Georgina MacKenzie series. Fans of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo won’t be able to put it down!
Europe is in the grip of an extreme Arctic blast and at the mercy of a killer, who leaves no trace. His weapons of choice are razor-sharp icicles. This is Jack Frost.
Now a fully qualified criminologist, Georgina McKenzie is called upon by the Dutch police to profile this cunning and brutal murderer. Are they looking for a hit man or a frenzied serial-killer? Could there be a link to a cold missing persons’ case that George had worked with Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen – two abducted toddlers he could never quite give up on?
The hunt for Jack Frost sparks a dangerous, heart-rending journey through the toughest neighbourhoods in Europe, where refugees and Roma gypsies scratch a living on the edge of society. Walking into the dark, violent world of a trans-national trafficking ring, can George outrun death to shed light on two terrible mysteries?
Sounds good doesn't it! The lovely people at Harper Collins have very kindly given me an extract from the beginning of chapter 2 to share with you:

North West England, women’s prison, 27 February

 ‘Put a bag over my head, didn’t I?’ the woman said, biting nails that were already at the quick.

Couldn’t have been more than twenty, this one. Looked nearer to forty with a complexion the colour of porridge. Overweight and swollen-faced, George guessed anti-depressants were at work. Dull blue eyes, as though the medication had caused a film to form over her sclera, preventing her from seeing the world in its grim true colours. Another poor cow in a pen full of poor cows.

‘What do you mean, you put a bag over your head?’ she asked the woman. She was poised to write. Steeling her hand to stop shaking. Unnerving to be back inside the very same prison she had spent three unforgettable months in – now a long time ago. A one-star vacation at Her Majesty’s leisure. All meals provided. The beatings had come for free. She had not known then that she would swap these Victorian red-brick walls of a one-time Barnardo’s home for the ivory tower of St. John’s College, Cambridge. No, she had been a poor cow in a stall full of crap, same as the others.

Her interviewee leaned forward. Cocked her head to one side. Grimaced.

‘Are you fucking thick or what?’ A spray of spittle accompanied ‘thick’.

Issued forth with venom, George knew. Tap, tap on her temple with her chewed index finger.

‘Donna.’ The prison officer’s tone issued warning enough for Donna to back up.

‘I said, I put the bag on my head. They didn’t know I had it. Tied it tight.’ Donna folded her arms. Smiling now. Satisfied. ‘It was Sainsbury’s. It had fucking holes in the bottom, didn’t it?’

‘Did you intend to kill yourself?’ George asked, a rash unexpectedly starting to itch its way up her neck. She knew Donna wouldn’t catch sight of it so easily because darker skin hid a multitude. She disciplined herself not to scratch.

‘Yeah. Course I bleedin’ did.’

The prison officer, a heavy-set woman in her thirties, by the looks, laughed. ‘Come on, Donna. We all know you were doing a Michael Hutchence, weren’t you?’

‘What?’

Donna was almost certainly too young to have heard of him, George thought.

‘Feller from INXS. Offed himself by accident, doing an asphyxi-wank or something.’

Donna tugged at the collar of her standard-issue tracksuit – too tight over her low-hanging, braless breasts. ‘You taking the piss?’

‘Yes.’

Insane laughter from both of them then. A camaraderie that George was used to seeing, along with the gallows humour. When the mirth subsided, Donna confessed the real reason for her grand polyethylene gesture.

‘I had bedbugs, didn’t I? They were biting like bastards.’ She started to rub her forearms through the jersey material. ‘I asked for a new mattress but they wouldn’t bloody listen. So, I puts the bag on my head, cos if they think you’re going to top yourself in here, you stand a better chance of them actually listening to what you’re on about.’ She glowered at the prison officer, seated beside her. Switched the glare for a grin like a deft pickpocket. ‘I been in here two years, right? Got another six to go.’

George scratched at her scalp with the end of her pen. Got the cap entangled in one of her corkscrew curls. Unrelentingly itchy. Was it the nervous rash? Was this her body telling her brain that she was losing her shit? She couldn’t possibly be freaked out, though. Definitely not. Not after all this time. Not a pro, like her.

I am a big fan of this author and I highly recommend all of her books, they are fast, edgy and so well written, you will not be disappointed. 

26.3.16

BLOG TOUR: Two Evils by Mark Sennen

I am on the final stop on the blog tour today for Two Evils by Mark Sennen. It is the sixth book in the DI Savage series, it is the first that I have read but I am now determined to catch up with the others.

A missing boy. A brutal killer. D.I. Charlotte Savage is ready.
DI Charlotte Savage has been warned to lay low. After a string of high profile cases, her infamous reputation precedes her.
But when a vulnerable child goes missing, for Savage, it's too close to home. She's not the kind of detective who can sit back and watch events unfold.
Then a second child is snatched- echoing a terrifying incident that happened over two decades before. Its soon becomes apparent that there is a more chilling motive behind the disappearances.
History looks set to repeat itself. It's down to Savage to seek out the cold blooded killer. Before it's third time unlucky. Before it's too late. 

(Publisher: Avon, 387 pages)

D.I. Charlotte Savage is supposed to be keeping a low profile but when not one, but two young children go missing, nothing will stop her from getting involved in the case. As she pieces the evidence together it is clear that present day events mirror those from over twenty years ago. Savage needs to stop whoever is behind them  but she knows that she does not have much time.
Two Evils was gripping from the get go, as I said this is the first book I have read from the series so they can obviously be read as stand alone books. I didn't feel as though I knew Charlotte Savage very well and I hope to rectify that by reading the previous books as I think it would have added another dimension to the story for me.
Chilling is probably the best word for this book. Mark Sennen has created a truly terrifying murderer and he reveals more and more as the book develops. The author goes back and forth between the past and the present to build a detailed picture of a very disturbed mind. The actions taken by the murderer make for uneasy reading; there are scenes of torture and the gruesome details are not brushed over.
I thought it was extremely clever how the author presents the murderer as having complete control at some points whilst doubting that he is doing the right thing at other points. For me this made him even scarier as you wonder what he will do next and just how far he will go as his behaviour becomes even more unpredictable.
Two Evils has a particularly relentless pace, at times I felt like I was struggling to keep up with the new evidence and suspects. It is so well tied together and even though there are many twists and turns, the finale of the book is well crafted.
Mark Sennen is a new author to me but one that I would highly recommend. DI Charlotte Savage is a complex and interesting character and I am so pleased to have found another series of books in this genre that are so well written.

Many thanks to Helena from Harper Collins for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. 

22.3.16

New to Dot Scribbles' Shelves

I have decided to restart this feature in order to showcase some of the lovely books that I have either bought or kindly been sent. These will all be reviewed on the blog soon so do let me know if you have any thoughts on them or any other recommendations!

My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry (Penguin, 520 pages, 25th August 2016) It's the perfect love story. Lily meets Ed at a party, and on their second date, he proposes. She's a lawyer, he's an up-and-coming artist. They own a beautiful flat in London and
mix with all the right people. But Lily has a secret. Something from her past, that is soon to collide with her present. And she thinks her new husband is hiding something too. The vows that they made will soon be tested to the very limits.

The Samaritan by Mason Cross (Orion Books, 409 pages, out now) For years, a sadistic serial killer has been preying in lone female drivers who have broken down. The press dub the killer 'the Samaritan', but with no leads, the police investigation quickly grinds to a halt. That's when Carter Blake volunteers his services. He's a skilled manhunter who shares some uncomfortable similarities to the man the police are tracking. As the slaughter intensifies, Blake must find a way to stop it...even if it means bringing his own past crashing down on top of him,





A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador, 720, out now) When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel painting pursuing fame in the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity. 
Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addictio
n, success and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize is Jude himself; by midlife a terrifyingly talented lawyer yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by a degree of trauma that he fears he will  not only be unable to overcome- but that will define his life forever.

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale (Tinder Press, 359 pages, out now) Harry Cane has followed tradition at every step, until an illicit affair forces him to abandon the golden suburbs of Edwardian England and travel to the town of Winter in the newly colonised Canadian prairies. There, isolated in a beautiful but harsh landscape, Harry embarks on an extraordinary journey, not only of physical hardship, but also of acute self-discovery.

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