Book blogger hop: advance reading

book-blogger-hop-finalThis week, I’m once again joining in with Billy at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer‘s book blogger hop, where they post a question which you and other bloggers answer, hopping from blog to blog to see people’s answers. This week, the question is…

How far in advance do you read the books you have scheduled for review?

And the answer is it really depends.  I don’t read a huge amount of review books compared to other bloggers I don’t think, generally sticking to requesting those I am pretty sure I will like (given the author or subject/genre), which means I’m often quite keen to read them and so do as soon as the opportunity arises.

Often, this is months before publication and where I used to fall down is that I wouldn’t review them straight away.  I would make some notes and there they would sit, waiting to be fully written up until close to the release date…by which point the book was no longer clear in my mind and I’m sure I missed much of what I might originally wanted to say.

Now, I review a book as soon as I’ve read it.  I have a personal goal of within 24 hours and am usually quite good at sticking to it.  It’s then scheduled for whenever it needs to be scheduled for.  I’m even organised enough now to have a calendar which shows if I’ve got something posted on a particular day so I can plan when other books with similar review dates can go up (*pats self on back as it’s only taken two years to get this far!).

There is another benefit to this and that’s that I can post the reviews on netgalley earlier than the release date and keep my % up above 80, the magic number and (hopefully) then get approved for more of the books I request (so really want).

What about you, do you read in advance or wait till close to the release date?  If you do, how do you plan your time so you have enough of it to read and review the book without going over (a big fear of mine if I leave things)?

Emma x

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Classic Club Spin…it’s been a while

One of my new years resolutions was to get back onto my Classic Club challenge, which I neglected miserably last year.  As we’re already in March I have only started one book from the list (which still isn’t finished), I thought it might be time to join in with the classic club spin again and give my reading the kick up the … it needs.

For the spin, you pick 20 books from your list and then, tomorrow, a number is announced and you read that book.  Easy, as long as I don’t get a book I’m dreading!  Here’s my list…

 

  1. 1984 – George Orwell
  2. A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
  3. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  4. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  5. East of Eden – John Steinbeck
  6. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  8. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  9. Lacuna – Barbara Kingslover
  10. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
  11. On the Road – Jack Kerouac
  12. Possession – A S Byatt
  13. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
  14. Sons and Lovers – D H Lawrence
  15. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Path
  16. Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett
  17. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  18. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
  19. War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells
  20. Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey

I have to admit a few of these are re-reads I’m quite looking forward to revisiting (like Oscar and Lucinda which I haven’t read in over 20 years) and some are by authors I know and trust but just haven’t gotten round to reading (like Barbara Kingslover).  A few though I am dreading as I’ve tried and failed to read them before.  The biggest of those is Possession (I wrote about my inability to finish it here).  So wish me luck and keep your fingers grossed it’s not number 12!

Emma

Let The Dead Speak by Jane Casey

51F315SsdqL.jpgA murder without a body
Eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home one day to find the house covered in blood and Kate, her mother, gone. There may not be a body, but everything else points to murder.

A girl too scared to talk
Maeve Kerrigan is young, ambitious and determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. She suspects Chloe is holding something back, but best friend Bethany Norris won’t let Maeve get close. What exactly is Bethany protecting Chloe from?

A detective with everything to prove
As the team dig deeper into the residents of Valerian Road, no one is above suspicion. All Maeve needs is one person to talk, but that’s not going to happen. Because even in a case of murder, some secrets are too terrible to share…

I am used to reading books with dead bodies, there is probably at least one in most books I read, but I have to say I’m not so used to reading books where there isn’t one, just an assumption of murder.  The idea of this is one of the things that makes Let The Dead Speak stand out.  As far as openings and plots go, it’s different – in a good way.

What it does is throw up lots of questions that DS Maeve Kerrigan has to find the answer too, not least of which is where the missing body is – and whether it’s murder at all.  Because, without a body, how can you be sure?  With that much blood, though, that’s the theory the police follow and, with no clear suspects, they start by looking close to home…because you never know what is going on behind closed doors and twitching curtains

Casey has created a brilliant cast of potential suspects including: Kate’s daughter Chloe, who may be brighter than she first appears; her boyfriend and neighbourhood thug, who seems to be honest but you never know; her best friend Bethany, who doesn’t want Maeve to get close to Chloe; Bethany’s father, who found the house full of blood and doesn’t like being asked questions; and her uncle, who is – quite simply – a nasty piece of work.

I was convinced each of them was guilty at one point – a good thing because it means nothing was obvious here and, as a reader, I had to work at figuring things out.  These are my favourite type of books, ones that leave me guessing till the last minute, staying up late and turning the pages because I have to know!

Maeve helped with the page turning because I really liked her, and her colleague Derwent, who she has a love / hate relationship with (more on the love side it seems, though not in a romantic way).  They are both dogged and determined and not afraid to push things to get to the truth – though, unfortunately, that doesn’t always work out well for them.  They played off well against each other and, though their conversations, I was able to get an insight into both their home lives and understand them more.  It’s important to me to like the central characters in the books I read and I definitely did here.

I thought I would as I have read other Jane Casey books and met Maeve before but it’s been a while (I think it was the fourth in the series and this is book seven so I’ve missed a few…this definitely can be a standalone though for people like me who haven’t read any/all of the series).  I am really glad I found her again because this was a great read – well written, well plotted, well paced and with interesting and complex characters – and I loved it.

Enjoy!

Emma loved-it

Source: Net Galley
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 9th Mach, 2017
Pages: 352
Format: ebook
Genre: crime fiction
Buy now: Amazon UK

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Tuesday Intro: The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week, I’m reading The Legacy  by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, an Icelandic author I discovered last year and am slowly reading my way through. The Legacy is her latest offering. Here’s what it’s about…

The murder was meant as a punishment – but what sin could justify the method?

The only person who might have answers is the victim’s seven-year-old daughter, found hiding in the room where her mother died. And she’s not talking.

Newly promoted, out of his depth, detective Huldar turns to Freyja and the Children’s House for their expertise with traumatised young people. Freyja, who distrusts the police in general and Huldar in particular, isn’t best pleased. But she’s determined to keep little Margret safe.

It may prove tricky. The killer is leaving them strange clues: warnings in text messages, sums scribbled on bits of paper, numbers broadcast on the radio. He’s telling a dark and secret story – but how can they crack the code? And if they do, will they be next?

And here’s how it starts…

1987

Prologue

They sat on the bench as if arranged in order of size; the girl, who was the youngest, at one end, her two brothers next to her. One, three and four years old. Their thin legs dangled from the hard seat, but unlike normal children they didn’t swing them or wriggle about, and their new shoes hung motionless over the shiny linoleum. There was no curiosity, boredom or impatience in their faces. All three stared at the blank white wall in front of them as if watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Viewed through the glass, the scene resembled a photograph –a study of three children on a bench.

What do you think. Would you keep reading?

Emma

You by Caroline Kepnes

25161131When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

You is a book with a difference, or at least it felt different to me, reading about it and then reading it (after a very long wait for it to come free at the library).  It’s told from the point of view of Joe, the Stalker and it’s quite unapologetic about it.  There is no attempt to make his actions seem more reasonable – no calling back to a difficult childhood to explain his actions, which include murder.  He is, quite simply, a psychopath – obsessively following and inserting himself into the life of a young woman because he is convinced she is the one for him.

Told from his perspective, she probably is.  She is perfect.  Beautiful, clever, engaging.  Every negative behaviour of hers (she has a lot of boyfriends, always leaves her studies to the last minute, calls on people then drops them like hot potatoes) Joe can see and find cute, or something he could fix if only he was her boyfriend.  To do that, of course, he has to turn himself into her perfect man.  Finding out what that is isn’t as hard as you might think in this internet age, with Facebook and Twitter and smart phones that hold our lives and can be very useful to people like Joe if you “lose” them whilst sharing a cab.  Not that I share a lot online but it’s amazing how quickly he built a profile of Beck, knowing where she was, what she liked, what she didn’t.

For the first two thirds of this book I was completely drawn in to how Joe slowly wove his way into Beck’s life, tuning up at just the right time to save her from herself (as he saw it) and always saying the right thing at the right time.  How he identified his “enemies” through her emails and Facebook feed and then got rid of them (because they were no good for her, unlike Joe who could make her happy).  Joe’s is the only voice you here.  It’s repetitive and convincing.  I started to think he might not be that bad after all just misunderstood (till he locks someone in a basement).  But no, he’s basically rotten to the core with no redeeming features.

It was this that eventually got to me I think.  The lack of redemption.  He was never going to learn and there was only one way this story was going to end.  With just his voice in my head and no possibility of a happy ending I started to flag.  Because he was so driven, his tone was too.  There was little change of pace and no self-awareness.   I became tired of reading and, for me, the last 100 pages were a slog.  I almost put the book down but kept reading in case I was wrong about the outcome (I wasn’t).

It is a shame because it’s not a badly written book by any means.  In fact, it’s clever in taking the angle and in creating the character Joe, who doesn’t just lurk but fully inserts himself into Beck’s life.  The problem was I couldn’t get away with such a relentless voice and nothing to cut it with for over 400 pages.  Take 50 – 100 out and I think I would have been fine.  I’d probably have been raving about this book as so many others have.  As it is, because of the length and lack of change of page and tone, I have ended up liking vs. loving this book.

Emma

liked-it-a-little

Source: Library
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publication Date: 18th June, 2015
Pages: 422
Format: ebook
Genre: crime fiction

Buy now from Amazon UK

Weekly update: 5th March, 2017

Hi all and welcome to another Sunday and another weekly update. I am sat here writing with the sun shining – it feels like spring is finally on it’s way and whilst I would have liked to see a little snow this winter I am also happy to see flowers starting to come through and not wake up to rain most days. Plus, sunshine always makes people happier and I like happy people. I feel pretty happy myself after a week of no travel work-wise and a couple of days catching up with old friends. Here’s how the week went blog wise…

On Monday I reviewed The Accidental Life of Greg Miller by Aimee Alexander which I really enjoyed despite it being outside my normal genre.

On Tuesday  I introduced my latest read, Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey which has been a cracking read and I’ll review it next week.

On Wednesday I posted my Monthly round-up for February which had some good books in it and so shaped up quite nicely.

On Thursday I reviewed Quieter Than Killing by Sarah Hilary which was much more my style of read and a really good one at that.

On Friday I joined in with the book blogger hop for,the first time a while and talked about my preference for books opening with a bang.

Reading wise, I finished You by Caroline Kepnes as well as the Jane Casey mentioned above. Book wise I stuck to my plan to not request ARCs but did pick up a couple of deals on Amazon (images link to good reads)…

Find Me The Murder Game

I am especially excited about The Murder Game as it is written by one of my favourite authors, Catherine McKenzie under the name of a character from one of my favourite books from last year, Fractured.

And that’s it for me. How was your week, reading and otherwise?

Have a good one!

Emma x

This week, I’m linking in with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over by clicking on their badges below to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

Book blogger hop: preferred reads

book-blogger-hop-finalThis week, for the first time in a while, I’m joining in with Billy at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer‘s book blogger hop, where they post a question which you and other bloggers answer, hopping from blog to blog to see people’s answers. This week, the question is…

When you start reading a novel, do you prefer to be plunged right into the action, or do you prefer a slower, more descriptive introduction to the plot and characters?

This is a question that pops into my head quite a bit – what I prefer in a new book – mainly, I think, because I regularly join in with the first chapter, first paragraph meme by Diana at Bibliophile by the Sea. I always pick the book I’m reading that day (or am about to start) and sometimes all it takes is a few sentences to get me completely hooked.  I know straight away if that is a book I am likely to like.  For me, it normally involves finding someone in peril but for others it might be a moment leading up to a kiss or a tear.

My choices often come from prologues, which I think plunge you right into the action.  They are pretty much standard fare for crime fiction, mysteries and thrillers these days and something I have a love / hate relationship with if I’m honest.  I love them because they draw me in.  Hate them (well, dislike them strongly) because they can sometimes make you think you are getting something you are not.

But then, whilst I read crime and mysteries more than anything else, looking at my favourite books of last year, a lot were slow burns.  The type of book that you find out nothing about in the first paragraph at all, or very little.  These do let the characters and the story grow over the pages and sometimes you are a 100 pages in before you realise you haven’t put the book down for an hour and need to stay up all night to finish it.

So, going back to the question, the answer is I read more books that plunge me right into the action which makes them my preferred choice but I probably enjoy slower, more descriptive books, more than I think and would definitely never turn one away if it caught my eye.

What about you, what is your preferred read?

Emma

Quieter Than Killing by Sarah Hilary

imageIt’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.

Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing

London, in winter.  It’s not the most welcoming place and, for three ex-offenders, it’s also not the safest.  When each are found with increasingly violent injuries (eventually leading to murder), Marnie and Noah aren’t sure if they have a vigilante on their hands or a series of random crimes. They are leaning towards vigilante but it’s a strong word and not one their new boss (DCS Ferguson) wants to hear, even if it might be the truth.

The question is, if it is the truth, why have these victims been picked.  What is it about them that made them targets (other than their records) and how are they connected to a missing child and London’s street gangs.  Marnie knows that if they can find the link, she can find the killer.  What she doesn’t expect to find is a link back to her, and her own past – one where her parents were killed by their foster child – and which she has never really recovered from. It all makes for a tense read and real page-turner of a book.

It’s also quite a complex read, with lots of threads weaving together and then unravelling just when you think you have it all figured out.  I liked this about it and thought Sarah Hilary did a great job of keeping things interesting without making them confusing. When I was thinking of how to describe this book, I kept coming back to the word relentless – it really didn’t give you a moments pause or let up for a second.   I didn’t feel bored for an instant and found myself challenged to guess who dunnit (I did, but only a few pages before Marnie so it was pretty obvious by then).

There is an intensity to the writing and to Marnie.  She’s another complicated female, my favourite kind, but compared to some I’ve read recently pretty stable and down-to-earth.  I got a chuckle when she says “Maverick detectives don’t exist outside of fiction”.  She’s probably right and isn’t someone I would describe as a maverick, just a very good policewoman – albeit one who is damaged by her past so slow to let people in and definitely married to her job.  It felt refreshing that she didn’t keep running off on her own and ignoring her team or her boss.  I also liked Noah, the other main character who has his own story (which nicely intercepts the main plot) which helped make him real, not just a side-kick to Marnie.

In fact, there isn’t really anything I didn’t like here (other than realising I haven’t read the third in the series).  It is well written, with great pace and interesting characters.  I felt involved in the story all the way through and was a bit disappointed when I had to say goodbye to it.  For those who haven’t read the other books, it works well as a standalone.  So, all in all, a great read that I highly recommend and liked a lot.

Enjoy!

Emma

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Publisher
Publisher: Headline
Publication Date: 9th March, 2017
Pages: 416
Format: paperback
Genre: crime fiction

Pre-order on Amazon UK

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

 

 

Monthly round-up: February, 2017

So it’s time to say goodbye to February, the shortest month of the year and supposedly the most depressing.  For me, though, it really hasn’t been that bad.  I had a week and a bit off work, got to spend quality time with friends and family and read some really good books…

loved-it

Perfect Remains by Helen Fields, a truly excellent debut set in Edinburgh but with a French detective on the search for a serial killer who doesn’t seem to put a foot wrong.  This kept me up late turning pages.  If it wasn’t for Evil Games, this would have been my book of the month.

Evil Games by Angela Marsons, the second in the DI Kim Stone series and set in my former stomping ground of the Black Country.  Here Kim is head to head with one of the most twisted characters I have come across in a while.  This is probably the best book I read this month.

liked-it-a-lot

The Accidental Life of Greg Miller by Aimee Alexander, which turned out to be a romance with a difference (or at least I thought it was different because love stories are so not my normal read).

Where My Heart Used To Beat by Sebastian Faulks, one of my favourite authors.  Here he looks at love, life, death and the ravages of war.  Not the most light-hearted book but beautifully written and heart-wrenching.

Captive on the Fens by Joy Ellis, where I got to spend time with one of my favourite detectives, Nikki Galena.  This is her fifth outing (and the third book I’ve read) and it was a good one as Nikki is on the trail of a serial kidnapper.  What I especially liked was getting to know her team as well, people who are often side-lined in this genre for the main detective.

The Breakdown by B. A. Paris, where a single female makes a single decision on a rain swept night that seems to be coming back to haunt her in this tense thriller with a great twist at the end.

 

liked-it-a-little

608474

The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle, which was spoilt for me by the fact I have too many TV versions of Sherlock running round my head.  Even without this, I’m not sure there weren’t too many holes in a plot that seemed to hope the pace would make me miss them.

not-for-me

29713036

All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford, a book I had such high hopes for but that just left me confused and frustrated as the story moved back and forth in time – maybe if I had liked the characters more I would have been more forgiving but this just wasn’t for me.

There was one book I didn’t rate Unlocking Italian with Paul Noble which was a guide more than a book but still a fun way to try and get my Italian language skills back on track.

And that’s it for me for February – like I said, not bad – with only one book I just don’t think I can bring myself to recommend. What about you – how was your month, reading and otherwise?

Emma

This month, I’m linking with Kathryn at Book Date and Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction with their monthly round-up posts (clicking on the images will take you to the posts to check out what others have been reading).

2017-monthly-wrap-up-round-up400 month-in-review-6

Tuesday Intro: Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week I’m reading Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey, an author I’ve read a fair few books from, though not all – and not all in this series.  Here’s what it’s about….

51F315SsdqL.jpgA murder without a body
Eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home one day to find the house covered in blood and Kate, her mother, gone. There may not be a body, but everything else points to murder.

A girl too scared to talk
Maeve Kerrigan is young, ambitious and determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. She suspects Chloe is holding something back, but best friend Bethany Norris won’t let Maeve get close. What exactly is Bethany protecting Chloe from?

A detective with everything to prove
As the team dig deeper into the residents of Valerian Road, no one is above suspicion. All Maeve needs is one person to talk, but that’s not going to happen. Because even in a case of murder, some secrets are too terrible to share…

And here’s how it starts…

It had been raining for fifty-six hours when Chloe Emery came home. The forecast had said to expect a heatwave; it wasn’t supposed to be raining.

And Chloe wasn’t supposed to be home.

Not much of a teaser I admit but is it enough to keep you reading?

Emma

Pre-order on Amazon UK