Conviction by Denise Mina

I was given the chance to review ‘Conviction’, so I jumped at the opportunity, as I always love discovering new authors and new books. Now, judging by the endorsements from crime-writing royalty such as Ian Rankin and Val McDermid, I may be a little late to this party, but as the saying goes, better late than never.

I know that you should not judge a book by its cover, but this is another where the cover does not do it justice.

‘Conviction’ is a pacy page-turner. A great tale that intertwines more than one mystery to reach a gripping conclusion. It cleverly plays on the current love and obsession that the public has with tales of true crime, as out heroine ends up involved in a tale from a true crime podcast just as the life she knows (or at least created) is falling apart. However, could this investigation she ends up starting in fact give her the closure she has needed all along?

This is a clever novel and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good crime story and a strong female character. There are twists and turns that keep the story engaging and an excellent touch of humour as the book reaches its conclusion.

So, go on, tru a new author – they might just become a new favourite.

The Boy in the Dress

I have finally been to see ‘The Boy in the Dress’ – and why, oh why, did it take me so long?

This musical is awesome – a true production for the twenty-first century. I have never read a David Walliams book (although my niece is a huge fan and did once give me a thorough lesson in his work), but now I may have to change that.

‘The Boy in the Dress’ is brought to us by David Walliams, Guy Chambers. Robbie Williams and Gregory Doran, and they have genuinely put together one of the most heart-warming shows I have seen. There is singing, dancing, comedy and – at one point for the majority of the audience – tears (due to the beautiful emotion between father and son).

Dennis knows he feels a bit different – and discovers he likes to wear a dress. Something his friends Sarah James and Darvesh have no issue with. But not everybody is so understanding, because it is not what boys do. Boys play football, they don’t wear dresses… However, as the story unfolds many of the characters go on a journey to realise that things don’t have to be ordinary, but they an in fact be extraordinary.

Everything about this show is golden. The set is, as always, simple but clever. The costumes are wonderful and tranistion with the tale. The songs are catchy and toe-tappingly perfect. And finally, the performances from every single member of the cast brought every moment of the story to life. This is not a production with a star but with a team, each clearly having a whale of a time entertaining the audience. And, wow, the audience was entertained; clapping, laughing, cheering.

It also struck me how diverse the audience was, proving, as always, that we do not need to limit people’s access to culture and theatre. People of all ages can enjoy an afternoon at the theatre. ‘The Boy in the Dress’ certainly united so many – just as fashion and football can. So, if you think you can squeeze a trip to the theatre in before ‘The Boy in the Dress’ closes, I would do it. And, if not let’s keep everything crossed that The RSC decides to tour this or, as with Matilda, gives it a chance in London. And let’s all remember: we are extraordinary not ordinary.

Random Attachment by Gertrude T Kitty

I was lucky enough to win a copy of ‘Random Attachment’ by Gertrude T Kitty. And, what can I say, I am so glad I did. My copy arrived in a parcel of lovely goodies, but the loveliest touch was the inscription at the front of the book.

This is a YA crime thriller (although definitely for the older YA audience) and a real page-turner. Dark. gripping and chilling, it takes you on quite a rollercoaster ride.

Mia, a council estate girl, has a troubled background she is keen to escape. Fynn, a posh boy, has been born into a wealthy background, although not without its own troubles. They are drawn together, but in the shadows is The Wolf, stalking and kidnapping local girls – if not worse. Mia and Flynn find themselves in this dark world as Mia is keen to find the truth – or is she the target?

I am so glad that, through the great Bookstagram community, I have managed to find Gertrude T Kitty’s work. She has a real passion for sharing her stories with the world, and I hope that this little blog post will help other keen readers discover her work. Especially as her second novel, ‘The Rebirth of Henry Whittle’, has just hit Amazon.

If you are a fan the gritty crime thriller then ‘Random Attachment’ is a book you will enjoy and want to dive into. So, why not support an author who has a real passion for her work and a love of bringing her to readers?

Before the Coffee gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

This is a book that I have seen all over social media and front of store in all the bookshops. So, of course, I was influenced to give it a go, even though it is probably something that I would not have picked up without the hype. However, the hype was totally correct – this novel is pure joy.

A translated novel – although you would not realise – there is none of the clunkiness you sometimes have with books when they are not in their native language.

This novel is full of emotion from the very first moment. One seat, in one cafe, can transport you to moments in the past (and the future on one occasion) and, although you can not change the past (or the future), it leads the characters to reflect and react. Throughout the story, there is a strong theme of love and respect, which leads to all sorts of emotional encounters and – at the same time – is truly wonderful.

This is a book that I want to tell everyone to read, because it is thought-provoking and beautiful. A modern twist on simple fantasy that is impossible to put down. Take a risk, try something new, you won’t be disappointed.

Taking a Chance on Love by Erin Green

I am lucky enough to be able to call the author Erin Green a friend. This January brought us her newest offering, ‘Taking a Chance on Love’, and what an absolute delight to read it was. Absolutely perfect to read to brighten these dark winter days – or any day, to be honest.

Our adventure in love introduces us to Dana, Carmen and Polly. 3 fabulous ladies who all have their opinions of love – and what will make them happy but each of them takes a very different path to get there. Carmen, successful businesswoman, is sure that she and Elliot should walk down the aisle – after all, she helps so many other women with their perfect day. Polly is determined that her relationship is just how she wants it – or is it? Dana, an independent single mother, is pretty sure she is ready to let a man share her life (and Luke’s) again – just how will she find that perfect man?

Erin creates wonderful female lead characters who you just find yourself rooting for as she knits words into tales.

This novel is full of warmth, humour and has the odd emotional moment. I laughed, I may have shed a tear but, most importantly, it really made me think about taking chances – whatever they may be – and really making the 29th February something special, as we are all gifted that extra day.

So, thank you again Erin Green, for writing a book that is a joy to read and creates so many happy memories.

One of Us is Next by Karen M McManus

January was supposed to involve a book-buying ban – a promise to myself that I would finally clear some of those unread books – however, ‘One of Us is Next’ came out and I had to know what was going to happen next. So, bam – there went my book-buying ban.

‘One of Us is Lying’ was such a great piece of YA fiction, I was so excited to know how the story continued. We returned to Bayview as ‘Truth or Dare’ game appears to have taken hold of the community. Suddely, it appears to end in tragedy. Again the teens of Bayview are brought together to try and work out who ‘Intense Guy’ is and what the connection is to their little community.

The conclusion of this novel is a good one – I was honestly surprised by the outcome but, to me, that is simply the sign of a wonderful mystery book. Yet this is not just about the mystery, it also explores relationships – between family members, peers and strangers – as the friends also establish their place in the world. There was one moment between father and son that even caused me to shed a tear.

This is a well-written tale that should not be defined as a YA novel but also one that adults will enjoy too. I hope there is more heading our way from Karen M McManus as she certainly has a talent for the mystery book.

Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Since taking on my book blog just over three years ago, I have found some lovely bookish-minded people on Bookstagram – and it was such a collection in the ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’ who encouraged me to read ‘Aurora Floyd’. Throughout January, we read and discussed the novel, even naming the actresses we would have loved to have seen (or even see) in a film adaptation of this gloriously melodramatic novel.

Aurora Floyd is from the pen of Mary Elizabeth Braddon, who also brought us ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’. A classic Victorian novelist who embodies the sensation genre with her wonderful tales. Aurora Floyd has a secret; a secret she really is not willing to share. However, as the tale develops and tragedy strikes, the secret is revealed – but not all mysteries are solved.

I could not put this novel down, and I was glad I was enjoying it as part of a read along, as I may have been tempted to rush through rather than savour the novel. As well as the beautiful writing, it has all the ingredients if a great mystery story. You have a secret, a cast of colourful characters – in the foreground and the background – and a murder…what more do you need? As well as a wonderful setting in the North of England and a nod to the racing word.

I am going to put it out there, despite (possibly) being a lesser-known novel, I preferred it to ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’. Do not get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed that book, but I felt this one had characters who were a little more relateable overall – especially Aurora herself.

So, if you fancy a novel that you may not normally have picked up – this is it!

The Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

From the pen of the author who gave us Percy Jackson is another adventure based on the mythology of ancient civilisations. This time, we are immersed in the beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians. Our heroes, Sadie and Carter, are connected to gods of the ancient world in way they never knew.

Of course, after a visit to the British Museum on Christmas Eve does not quite go as they expect, Sadie and Carters world is turned upside down. They find themselves on quite the mission to prevent Set from unleashing chaos on the world. Of course, they have to meet a real collection of characters from the ancient world and make some quick decisions about how they can save the world.

Magic, mystery and history are all entwined to create a great adventure. For me, although I am not the target audience, the start and end are strong but at times the middle was a little slow. Yet, this was a book I was encouraged to read and I do think it could get some reluctant readers to pick up a book. After all, who doesn’t wish they can go on a huge adventure and discover that they, in fact, have royal blood?

The Love Child by Rachel Hore

Bookstagram made me do it – as I was lucky enough to be selected by ‘Darkroom Tours’ to read and review ‘The Love Child’. Now, to be honest, if I judged this book by its cover, I would probably have decided that ths novel was not for me. However, that would have been completely the wrong decision to have made – this novel was completely for me.

This book swept me away as I followed the story of young Alice Copeman and Irene Burns. Two strong female characters in a time when society dictated the roles and expectations of women, which would not always lead to a happy ending. As we follow Alice’s story as she attempts to break into the field of medicine. So often dominated by men, she carries with her a secret that is also her inspiration and fuels her determination to be successful.

Simultaneously, Irene Burns is growing up in Suffolk. Always not sure she fully belongs, Irene wants to know her people because she believes it will complete her if she knows the past. It takes her on a journey of self-discovery – although maybe she always was with her people?

This is a beautifully written novel, which evokes all the emotions. However, it also tackles some of those tough issues of the early 20th century, which led to the displacement of children, because it was what society dictated – and reputation was everything.

I found this novel a wonderful page-turner and I am so glad to have discovered a new author through this wonderful bookish community.

Worzel Gummidge by Barbara Euphan Todd

One of the lovely things about Christmas is that it brings people together and creates memories. A very happy memory of this Christmas for me was us all watching the new adaptation of ‘Worzel Gummidge’ together. It was just a joyful piece of television and we all hope that there will be more episodes to come.

However, this also prompted me to read the book. What a joy that is, too! This was a lovely read to start 2020 with. A classic Children’s book, with the loveable scarecrow, a touch of magic and a great collection of characters. Susan, John and Worzel Gummidge have some great adventures in the countryside.

This is a traditional tale of simpler times – there is something very nostalgic about the book, which adds to its charm. It is really rather refreshing.

So, why not go and rediscover a classic whatever your age because sometimes all we need is the simple things in life.