Perfect Crime by Helen Fields

This book was sent to me as part of a Secret Santa bookswap at the end of last year. I am, always, willing to give a good crime novel a go and discover new authors, so was intrigued to see what was in store for me.

The setting for this novel is Edinburgh – such an atmospheric city and one that does seem to inspire some wonderful crime novels. Our detectives, DI Callanach and DCI Ava Turner, are called in to investigate the death of a man who only a week before had been talked out of committing suicide – so maybe this is not suspicious, this time he actually went through with it? Until there are a number of other deaths – clearly murders – of people who have been known to consider taking their own lives.

Alongside this, the handsome-but-troubled Callanach is dealing with his own demons – and could even find himself a suspect in a murder investigation.

I really enjoyed this novel as a good piece of crime fiction. I did work out the culprit for one of the mysteries (possibly due to my love of crime novels), but was completely in the dark for the other.

This has all the ingredients of a good modern thriller: secrets, well-crafted characters, pace and complex romance.

I have read this as a standalone novel, although it is a series and this is not the first book, but I am keen to read the others. Another set of titles for the ever-growing to-be-read pile.

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to go to an event at Birmingham Waterstones with Becky Albertalli and Aishs Saeed. Two American YA authors who have co-written the wonderful ‘Yes No Maybe So’.

This is such an appropriate novel for the current age, and was inspired by the experiences of Becky and Aisha when they decided to canvass for their local Democratic candidate – as they are not huge fans of the current political situation. It is so wonderful to come across two people who are so passionate about playing their part – and writing a novel which will hopefully so the same for their fans.

Jamie (written by Becky Albertalli) and Maya (written by Aishs Saeed) are reunited when they are both encouraged to canvass for their local Democratic candidate in a special election. Neither of them is old enough to vote but both have families who are keen for a bit of political change and think you are never too young to become involved with some political campaigning. However, as a young Jew and a young Muslim this was of passing the summer becomes something so much more. They both have personal reasons to want to see change and learn so much about themselves and their friendship along the way.

This book is one that tackles so many relevant issues to create a story that is relatable and entertaining. Audiences will be left reflecting on their involvement in politics – are we doing enough to ensure change – and considering some of those injustices and prejudices that people sometimes turn a blind eye to, or just don’t seem to care about.

I thought this book was brilliant. Such a great read for the current time – and, sadly, possibly for some time to come.

Theatre Club 2020 – Waitress

Theatre Club 2020 has started on a high. This year, I chose Waitress as the show to celebrate my friend’s birthday – the hype has dragged me in, no point denying it. And, wow, it is not over-hyped, but totally deserves all the hype.

We did not know the story at all before the performance, so everything was a wonderful surprise. Jenna knows life is not quite as she dreamed it would be. She is a waitress with an amazing talent for baking pies with a story – she also has great friends. However, when she realises she is pregnant and meets her new doctor – her life starts to change…

The really special thing about this show for me was that it is a tale of female empowerment. About having the confidence to know you don’t have to be what people think you should be – you have the potential to be whatever you want to be.

The music and songs are wonderful throughout. There is humour and warmth – and a great collection of characters. Sara Bareilles has the most wonderful voice and, as composer of Waitress, is a real treat in the lead role. However, this is another show that is not about a star but about an ensemble of great actors who bring the story to life for the audience.

I have also never been to a show before that has quite so much applauding at the end of each song. The fan dedication to this musical is amazing and I am now also ‘Team Waitress’. So, if you can’t catch it in London, there is always the tour – just try to see it, as it is a beauty.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Before I start my ‘review’, or humble opinion, of this book, I have a little anecdote. I was reading this book on the train and it sparked a conversation. A lady told me that her friend was the author of the book – and, in fact, she was the author Helen Moss (Adventure Island Series, among others). We had a lovely chat, with another lady also, about books, encouraging reading and a reading scheme in prisons. A brief but great chat.

So, back to ‘Murder Most Unladylike’, I am clearly not the target audience, but these books had been catching my eye for a while and I was lucky enough to receive one in a bookswap. This is the first in a series, and I will be reading more, of crime capers involving the pupils of Deepdean School for Girls. Daisy and Hazel set up a secret detective agency, but there have not been many real crimes to investigate – until Hazel stumbles across the body of Miss Bell. Well, she is convinced she did but, apparently, Miss Bell has just resigned… Daist and Hazel know that this can not be true, but how do they prove it?

This book is such good fun. It has all the magic of the classic boarding school stories, such as the Chalet School, and the classic crime ingredients of the greats, such as Agatha Christie.

Beautfully written. it is engaging for all readers; you want to know ‘whodunnit’. Although Daisy is clearly a little bit of a dominant character, Hazel has the classic crime-solving skills. Together, they complement each other – a little like Holmes and Watson.

So, if you, or a reader you know, enjoys a good crime puzzle, then pick up ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ and start a whole new set of adventures.

The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh

This was a book that I found a little bit frustrating. It was almost a Black Sheep read for me; I was clost to giving up at about 20% of the way through, but I powered on. I am glad that I did , as by the end it was gripping page-turner. Just a bit of a shame it took a while to get there.

I am not going to share any spoilers. The idea of the novel is excellent – if a man does not call in this day and age, could it lead you to become obsessed with other ways of contacting them? Could that lead to you feeling as though you see them everywhere?

However, the really clever thing about this book is how Rosie Walsh leads the reader on some great false paths. As the tale unfolds, she reveals some real surprises and so many things are not quite as they seem. This is what made me appreciate that I had not given up on the book.

For me, there were just a few chapters which were not essentila to the take and caused my attention to wobble a little. Especially as this was my read on the commute, which means I really need my attention held at all times.

Have you read ‘The Man Who Didn’t Call’? What were your thoughts?

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Crime fiction has often been my genre of choice in February. I am not sure why, but it just seems to have been the theme.

‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’ has been on my tbr pile for a little while but, as it has been nominated for the ‘Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020’, I thought it was about time I picked it up.

This is a great piece of crime fiction – that all readers can enjoy, it does not need to be defined by YA.

Pip decides to tackle a cold case as part of a college project. She is convinced that Sal was not responsible for the disappearance of Andie. As Pip investigates the case, with the help of Ravi, Sal’s brother, she uncovers far more secrets and mysteries that she was expecting.

Although, I solved a small part of it as I read the book (too many crime novels and TV shows in my formative years), there was plenty I did not work out; plot twists galore.

Pip is a great lead character. A strong-minded, determined young lady – who values education and is loyal to those that matter to her. It is great to see another strong female lead in a novel who can be an inspiration, although of course I would not expect us all to go off and investigate cold cases.

I really enjoyed this book and wish it lots of luck in the ‘Waterstones Children’s Book Prize’. I, also, can not wait for the release of ‘Good Girl, Bad Blood’ later in the year to join Pip on her next escapade, and enjoy more of Holly Jackson’s writing.

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.