Wednesday 27 September 2017

Review | Race to the Kill by Helen Cadbury

Published by Allison & Busby on September 21, 2017

Race to the Kill is the third, and now sadly final, book in Helen Cadbury’s Sean Denton series. I’ve got copies of both the earlier books, To Catch a Rabbit and Bones in the Nest, but haven’t got around to reading them yet. However, after reading Race to the Kill, I now really want to read them as soon as I can. I’ve really struggled reading over the past year, finding that I struggle keeping an interest in a book after the first couple of chapters which is very unlike me. With Race to the Kill, I was absolutely hooked from chapter one and I barely put my Kindle down afterwards as I raced to the end.

At the beginning of the book we meet a mysterious woman in a petrol station. She’s desperate for the help of Sean Denton and Gavin Wentworth but nobody is quite sure why. With a bit of persuasion, they follow her to a boarded-up school – the local squat – and find the place uncomfortable and dangerous. In amongst the place, they also find a dead body, and so the murder investigation begins.

This is just one strand of a hugely intriguing, dark and multi-layered, full of depth novel. There’s so much content packed into this novel and there wasn’t a single bit that didn’t have me engrossed. The writing is sharp and emotive, with intrigue layered in every chapter and the tension built on what may be discovered next was very engrossing and I finished each chapter more hooked than I did the last. One thing I loved about Race to the Kill was the pacing, as it never let up, and this allowed the suspense to build beautifully as well as stopping me from having the time to work out what may have happened. Therefore, the shock factor in Race to the Kill was also brilliant as this absorbing novel surrounding drugs, immigration and sexual abuse unfolds.

I loved the Yorkshire setting to this book as it felt familiar and this gave the plotlines more strength to me as I could better imagine where they were taking place. I’ve not read many crime novels set in Yorkshire so this could have been another reason why I enjoyed Race to the Kill so much. I loved the greyhound racing stadium setting as we take a look at the people around the place and what has been taking place. There was not a theme to the book I could say I preferred as each part had me gripped and this was definitely a book that I felt was over too soon as I barely stopped for breath when reading it.

I found Sean to be a really interesting and likeable character. As the third book in the series I am never sure how I will take to the main character on the force as there could be a lot of missing backstory, but here really early on we get an insightful look at what drives Sean, his family, his dyslexia and his ambitions. I really liked Sean straight away and if this series was not so sadly cut short by the passing of Helen Cadbury then I know I would be really eager to read more about him and more of his investigations as Race to the Kill had me enthralled. There is evidently a lot to be missed about Helen Cadbury’s writing but her storytelling ability will forever remain within the three novels in Sean Denton’s series, and if the first two are anywhere near as good as Race to the Kill then she has left behind three cracking books to be read and enjoyed.

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Review | Dan Knew by F J Curlew

Published on June 5, 2017

Dan Knew is the story of a dog and his family which is based off the real-life experiences of the author. The dog in this book, as well as the way he comes into his new family’s lives, is real, and as Dan Knew is narrated by Dan himself, as the reader we get to fall in love with this dog who was a special part of the author’s family. Dan’s character is guarded, at times jealous and at times very much a worrier, but he was a lovely character to follow and any pet owner can believe the way he acts and the thoughts he shared, as the relationship between a pet and their owner is a special one where we are convinced we know what the other one is thinking.

Dan’s a dog with a huge personality and I loved his character right from the start. Of course it’s a bit unusual to read a book told from the perspective of a dog (though I have read a few) but it didn’t take long to get to know him and his quirks. His voice really stands out and the author stays true to his representation, with his behaviour and the way he describes things told the kind of way you would expect your pet to speak if they really did have a voice we could understand. For anyone who has had a pet it is so easy to see the author’s love for her pets shines through in Dan Knew and the actions of Dan are believable as they are the kind of things you see your own pet doing. He’s not a very laid-back dog and does a lot of thinking about humans and the world he’s living in and his thoughts and overreactions often provide some humour to the book which I enjoyed.

At the beginning of the book, we’re in Ukraine as stray puppy Dan is taken in by his soon-to-be new family. Dan is a nervous little thing and has gone through his own traumatic experience, but along with his new family there are plenty more of those to come – only this time the love and bonds between pets and their owner really shines through. Through trust, patience and loyalty, Dan becomes a big part of this family’s life and I found myself enthralled by this charming novel.

I have read other books told from a dog’s POV before but this one had a lot more substance than most. The tale Dan tells of his family is utterly fascinating as the lives of his human family are interesting, hectic and emotional. The book crosses different countries and strong themes such as abuse and cancer. There’s much more as well as those but to give away too much would spoil the experience of reading it for yourself. Dan’s descriptions of what takes place are quite simplistic in text but also really expressive so as the reader you can get a good feel for what is happening and that the story inside is relevant to the author’s real life made it all the more poignant – and I found myself really engrossed in the events of this family.

Whilst I was hooked on the story, at times I would have liked to be able to move the story on as sometimes the focus on one aspect lasted longer than I thought necessary. But that was all a matter of taste as with so much going on in Dan and his family’s semi-biographical lives, there were bound to be parts that I enjoyed more. Dan Knew is overall an engaging novel about love, loyalty and the impact a pet can have on one dysfunctional family. This is such a content-packed book and throughout, Dan’s personality shines through. Throughout all the trials and tribulations of his family, I took this dog to my heart and found myself a little attached come the end…

Friday 15 September 2017

Review | Miss Seeton Quilts the Village by Hamilton Crane

Published by Farrago on September 7, 2017

"When it's Miss Seeton," said young Mrs. Newport, "you never can tell what might happen next!"

Miss Seeton Quilts the Village is the first new addition to the series in over twenty years. It is not a series that I’ve read before, though I have heard quite a bit about it and now have the audiobook of an earlier book in the series ready to listen to. I love cosy crime and cosy mysteries. They are, in my eyes, typically relaxing and refreshingly funny novels set in a village full of secrets, wrong conclusions and plenty of frolics. The same applied to Miss Seeton Quilts the Village, as it was a book I really enjoyed reading.

It’s a slow start to Miss Seeton Quilts the Village as old names are reintroduced and as a new reader to the series, it was a bit of an effort at first to acquaint myself with the setting and the characters and then tuck into the new instalment. Though it did take quite a few chapters to settle into the new book, once I did it was thoroughly worthwhile as Miss Seeton Quilts the Village is witty, often laugh-out-loud funny and very endearing.

Miss Seeton is a quirky character and nothing if not entertaining. Armed with her sketchbook, she can help the police on cases they can’t get to the bottom of. Her sketches detail people, their actions and their emotions – even the ones which haven’t happened yet. Her attitude is great and following her character is utterly charming. I can see why there are so many books in this series, first written by Heron Carvic and then continued by Sarah J Mason writing as Hamilton Crane, as Miss Seeton is an interesting and engaging character who can be trusted to get to the bottom of any mystery.

There is a fair bit of tension in the village of Plummergen brought about by the creation of a village tapestry. I found the antics and the issues of the villagers to at times be laugh out loud funny. The characters are pretty mad and kept me entertained at all times. It’s exactly what I would come to expect from a close-village setting and yet the humour still got to me and when I could finally keep up with all the characters, I found myself really wrapped up in their lives and the gossip they spread.

As for the plot, it was a bit repetitive at times but still, there’s plenty to get stuck into. From espionage to local history to Nazi secrets and a whole wad of mystery and intrigue, this book is full of content and more than enough secrets and gossip to keep me engrossed. There are oodles of secrets hidden within Plummergen and a heck of a lot of gossip too. With every page turned another secret comes to light and it was frantic yet entertaining keeping up with every last thing happening within the pages of this book. I breezed through this book as I found it all highly enjoyable and couldn’t get enough of the quirkiness and eccentricity of the place, the people and the gossip.

Jam-packed with mystery, secrets and dry humour, Miss Seeton Quilts the Village is a raucous romp of a read that had me smiling throughout.

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Guest Post | Daniela Sacerdoti on her writing inspiration

Published by Headline on September 7, 2017

Daniela's Writing Inspirations 

Have you ever heard that saying, the one about us being dwarves on the shoulders of giants? I think it’s so true. I believe my imaginative world and my writing skills are built of many tiny bricks, and each brick I owe to a writer who inspired me and moved me and taught me as a child and young woman, when I was at my most receptive.

My father was just as crazy about books as I am, so whenever I interrupted him when he was reading he’d sit me down and read aloud for me. This way I absorbed The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, two of my greatest inspirations. I remember being desperate to visit Middle Earth, and thinking that maybe, when I grew up, I would find a way. Although I never wrote fantasy, I was deeply influenced by Tolkien’s dualistic view of the world, deep morality and belief in self-sacrifice. When I began reading on my own there was no stopping me - my parents gave me some beautiful books from the Mursia collection, very popular with Italian children in the seventies and eighties, and I discovered Lucy M.Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. She became my heroine. I wanted to be just like Anne, and I was desperate to write just like Lucy!

When, years later, I read Emily of New Moon in English - it hadn’t been translated in Italian - I found my literary alter-ego: I was definitely Emily Murray, the aspiring writer and spirited, solitary, stubborn young woman. Those books are underlined, highlighted, ear-marked and quoted all over my diaries. Of Lucy Montgomery I love the way she describes the emotions and inner storms of girls and women, and how she describes life in small villages, their dynamics and web of relationships.

As a young woman I began reading in English, as it offered me a host of women’s fiction I couldn’t find in Italian (back then). My first discovery was Lesley Pearse with Rosie and Ellie, the kind of unstoppable, generous, abundant storytelling that made me feel like I was inside the story. Also I found amazing the way she didn’t shy away from controversial topics, and made her heroines go through so much strife before they found happiness.

During my year at university in Dublin I discovered Maeve Binchy and Sheila O’Flanagan: Maeve’s The Glass Lake and Light A Penny Candle were pivotal in showing me how skilled, how deep, how perceptive women’s fiction can be, though often (almost always) underestimated.

Although I’ve read widely, it’s mostly to Tolkien, Montgomery, Pearse, Binchy and O’Flanagan that I credit the writer I am today. A motley crew maybe, but what they all have in common in honest, truthful, soul-deep storytelling.

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