Buried Secrets by Lisa Cutts

35227796To most people, Detective Inspector Milton Bowman appears to have an ideal life. But some secrets aren’t buried deep enough.

After a tragic car accident, and a shocking murder, DI Milton’s colleagues have to start digging into every aspect of his life.

Suspicion and disbelief creep into their lives as a web of deceit unfolds – the Bowman family, friends and even colleagues come under suspicion. No one is to be trusted.

Nothing is as it appears.

Buried Secrets, the second in the East Rise series, starts with a tragic accident, closely followed by a murder, one that puts the police themselves at the heart of the investigation.  Front and centre of trying to find the murderer should be DI Harry Powell; unfortunately, he’s at best a witness, at worst a suspect, so off the case.

Instead it’s down to DI Doug Philbert and DCI Barbara Venice to head up what will prove to me a much more complicated case than any of them might have thought.  Amongst the team they are leading are some familiar faces, including DC Hazel Hamilton, who is appointed Family Liaison Officer and finds herself supporting the nineteen year old son of the victim.

I suppose one of the first things I would say about Buried Secrets, and one of things I liked about it, is exactly what drew me to the first in the series, Mercy Killing – the fact that this book really shows how the police work, and how team work is at the heart of what they do.  Whilst some characters here take front and centre, it is all the officers as a unit, working together, that solve the case.  No one is a lone wolf, so often the case nowadays in books.

What it does mean though is that it took me a while to get all the characters straight in my head, who they were, what their roles were and what type of personalities they had.  I did get it, but it was probably a good 10 chapters in before everything fell into place. The good new is, once I did, there wasn’t anyone I didn’t warm to or want to find out more about.

And this is something I am hoping I will get to as the series goes on because what Lisa Cutts did here is, I thought, quite clever.  Whilst Harry was one of the main characters in the first book, and is definitely present here, it was Hazel who dominated this novel (and not in a bad way).  I liked getting to know her here and understanding what made her tick

I also liked that she had the role of family liaison, something which I know exists but don’t really know what they do.  Hats of to them I would say now because it’s a hard, emotionally  draining, job by the sounds of it.  Focusing on this aspect of the case (though not to the detriment of the investigation, there was plenty of that), gave this book a different slant, which I liked.

Other things I liked? The twists and turns, which started to come thick and fast in the second half as you were left guessing who the guilty party was, and the sub-plot involving a local drug gang (which I’m hoping might be the subject of another novel because there are some nasty characters there that might make a good story).  Plus the fact that I got to see not just the investigation but the trial.

What I didn’t like? Not a lot, if I’m honest.  The getting my head round the large cast maybe but that’s a minor complaint and may just be down to my age and terrible memory for names.  Also, for me, it was just a little too long – not much, maybe fifty pages, but there were a few scenes of Hazel’s burgeoning relationship I could maybe have done without.

And that’s it really.  Overall, I found myself liking this book a lot and recommending it for fans of police procedurals…Enjoy!

Emma x

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Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 22nd June, 2017
Format: ebook
Pages: 432
Genre: mystery / crime
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guiltless by Viveca Sten

The tiny Swedish island of Sandhamn has always been a haven for lawyer Nora Linde. With trouble brewing in her marriage, she finds its comforts more welcome than ever, even in the depths of winter. That is, until her two young sons trip across a severed arm in the woods.

The boys’ gruesome discovery will once again connect Nora with her childhood friend Thomas Andreasson, now a local police detective. When the limb is identified as belonging to a twenty-year-old woman who disappeared without a trace months earlier, what had been a missing persons case takes on a whole new urgency.

Nora and Thomas delve deeply into the woman’s final hours, each of them wrestling not only with the case but with the private demons it awakens in them. As they do, they’ll find themselves drawn into the history of Sandhamn and the tensions that have been simmering just below the surface for more than a hundred years.

Guiltless is my third trip to Sandhamn, a small island off the Swedish coast with a population of only a couple of hundred people but – seemingly – a lot of murder.  I have to say, it sounds beautiful there, but – given the death count – I would think twice before visiting.

This time, the victim is a young girl, missing for months before Nora’s boys find her body. She is an island native (vs. the visitors that flood the island in the summer) and so her death is possibly more shocking than it might have been otherwise and the small community are rocked to it’s core.  The question is why and who?

It’s a question Nora finds herself in the middle of, not just because her sons found the body but because her best friend, Thomas, is investing the case.  Nora and Thomas make an interesting team.  They don’t investigate together as such but they do use each other to bounce ideas off, as well as supporting each other in life in general.

I like their relationship (purely platonic) and both Nora and Thomas as individuals and I think it is this that keeps bringing me back to the series.  They are genuinely nice people, the type I would want to know.  Their friendships seems natural and I can only commend Sten for how well she has created these two people.

Her plots too are pretty good.  There is a simplicity to them when you first start reading but soon the twists start coming and you don’t really know where you are.  Clever.  At the same time, a word that does pop to mind when describing her novels is gentle because you aren’t being beaten over the head with wild card detectives or omnipotent killers.  There is an old fashioned element here, a lot of who dunit and (thankfully) very little in the way of gruesome.

This style fits me perfectly more often now I find.  I don’t like lots of gore with my crime and I am tiring of detectives that go out on their own and don’t listen to anyone else on their team, usually whilst not sleeping, not eating and drinking too much.  There is none of that in Thomas, and I like it.  I also liked the book – a lot – and definitely recommend it (including for those who haven’t read the first two – it’s definitely a standalone).

Enjoy!

Emma x

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Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Publication Date: 23rd May, 2017 (originally published 2010)
Format: ebook
Pages: 370
Genre: mystery / crime
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

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

Other books in the Sandhamn Series…

Still WatersClosed Circles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold Kill by P. J. Tracy

29966598

The peaceful Christmas season in Minneapolis is shattered when two friends, Chuck Spencer and Wally Luntz, scheduled to meet in person for the first time, are murdered on the same night, two hours and several miles apart, dramatically concluding winter vacation for homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth.

An hour north of Minneapolis, Lydia Ascher comes home to find two dead men in her basement. When Leo and Gino discover her connection to their current cases, they suspect that she is a target, too. The same day, an elderly, terminally ill man is kidnapped from his home, an Alzheimer’s patient goes missing from his care facility, and a baffling link among all the crimes emerges.

This series of inexplicable events sends the detectives sixty years into the past to search for answers-and straight to Grace MacBride’s Monkeewrench, a group of eccentric computer geniuses who devote their time and resources to helping the cops solve the unsolvable. What they find is an unimaginable horror-a dormant Armageddon that might be activated at any moment unless Grace and her partners Annie, Roadrunner, and Harley Davidson, along with Leo and Gino, can find a way to stop it.

This is the seventh book in the Monkeewrench series, though only the second I’ve read and it can definitely be read as a standalone.  Given the detail in the summary (from Goodreads), there isn’t much I can add without spoilers so I’ll have to settle for saying what I thought of the book itself…which is pretty positive.

There is a lot to like about this book.  I loved the setting, the cold Minnesota winter seems like just the right place for a mystery killer to be on the loose and adds to the tension as blizzards reduce visibility to almost nothing and cars skid down roads, and I loved the characters.

As I mentioned already, I have only read one other book in this series (it was book no. 4) yet I clearly remembered a lot of the central characters, specifically Grace and Harley from the Monkeewrench team.   Entering the pages of Cold Kill was a bit like meeting old friends…you’d pretty much forgot the existed but once you come face-to-face again it was like you’d only seen each other last week.  It felt good.

I also liked the detectives. Leo and Gino are old-school, long-ish in the tooth but determined to do the right thing.  There was a humour in their relationship which lightened a book that had a lot of murder in it.  I found myself smiling more than once at their joking back and forth.

The book itself was well written.  It kept me turning pages and barrelled along at quite a pace.  I have to say that the plot wasn’t one I completely believed in (there is a bit of spy / espionage theme here and those aren’t books I normally read) but I was willing to let that go because of I was enjoying myself too much.   If you can’t tell, I liked this one a lot and would definitely recommend it.

Enjoy!

Emma x

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Source: Library
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 17th November, 2016
Format: ebook
Pages: 315
Genre: mystery / crime
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

p.s. This was published as The Sixth Idea in the states

 

 

 

 

Roots, Radicals, and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World by Billy Bragg

32202629Roots, Radicals & Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World is the first book to explore this phenomenon in depth – a meticulously researched and joyous account that explains how skiffle sparked a revolution that shaped pop music as we have come to know it.

It’s a story of jazz pilgrims and blues blowers, Teddy Boys and beatnik girls, coffee-bar bohemians and refugees from the McCarthyite witch-hunts. Billy traces how the guitar came to the forefront of music in the UK and led directly to the British Invasion of the US charts in the 1960s.

Emerging from the trad-jazz clubs of the early ’50s, skiffle was adopted by kids who growing up during the dreary, post-war rationing years. These were Britain’s first teenagers, looking for a music of their own in a pop culture dominated by crooners and mediated by a stuffy BBC. Lonnie Donegan hit the charts in 1956 with a version of ‘Rock Island Line’ and soon sales of guitars rocketed from 5,000 to 250,000 a year.

Like punk rock that would flourish two decades later, skiffle was a do-it-yourself music. All you needed were three guitar chords and you could form a group, with mates playing tea-chest bass and washboard as a rhythm section. (Goodreads)

A few weeks before seeing Roots, Radicals, and Rockers on NetGalley, I was having a conversation with my mom and dad, one of those random ones you have, this one sparked by an advert on Sunday morning television selling Lonnie Donegan’s greatest hits.  Their comment was, how many hits did he have?  Children of the 50’s and teenagers in the 60’s their memory of him seemed to revolve around one or two comedy songs like Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavour on the Bedpost Overnight and My Old Man’s a Dustman.  One google search later, it became clear there was much more to his music than that.  Next thing you know I’ve a skiffle playlist on Spotify and I’m requesting  copy of a book which has opened my eyes to a period in British music I knew nothing about, embarrassingly so for a woman who claims to love music.

As the Goodreads summary states, this book is incredibly well researched and detailed, taking you back to the America roots of what became a very British type of music and led the way for the British Invasion of America in the 60s.  Some of this America music I was very familiar with, artists like Lead Belly, well at least their music.  I knew little if anything of their lives or the world in which they were creating music.  How it made it’s way to the UK was through a small group of people who were pursing an ideal for want of a better word, known as “trad jazz”.  Skiffle was an offshoot of this, played inbetween sets to keep the audience entertained at gigs.

What makes skiffle so different from what came before is that it the birth of guitar-based music in the UK and it ties in perfectly with the birth of the teenager, who after the restrictions of post-war Britain, finally find themselves with money in their pockets to spend and a desire to break with the formality of their parents generation.  They are looking for a way to express themselves and enjoy themselves and through skiffle they found a way.  In the states, it is mirrored by the rise of rockabilly, the king of which was Elvis Presley.

The King of Skiffle for us, was a young man from Glasgow who became a chart hit almost by accident.  Reading about his rise to fame, and how much of a fluke it was, was fascinating.  What was also interesting to me was how he didn’t write his own music (at least in the beginning) but created a British sounds from what I consider American legends (can you say Woodie Guthrie?).  And how much of a craze that sound became.

This is the best part of the story I thought, which didn’t focus too much on Dunegan’s life but looked instead at the impact he had on music in general (as well as other bands and artists which followed him).  For a short period in time (just two years of ’57 and ’58) it seems that every young man and quite a few young women picked up guitars and learnt to play three chords, enough to throw out a tune and express themselves.

Among these young men were three that would change the music world as we knew it: John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison.  And this is where the story ends, with a musical phenomenon that came from nowhere (seemingly), inspired a generation of musicians, and changed and transformed itself into music that influences what we hear today.   It’s a pretty inspirational story and one that shows the power of youth when they chose to use it to change the world.

I have to say that the number of artists named and the number of musical references (magazines, venues etc.) was a bit overwhelming at times, as was trying to keep an eye on the timeline as the book tended to bop back and forth.   I felt guilty in a way that I knew I wouldn’t remember everything I had read but my husband, who is a much bigger music fan than me and also read the book, didn’t have this problem and found it completely fascinating.

What both of us thought made this book stand out was the passion with which it was written and the love Billy Bragg has for his subject matter.  This wasn’t just well researched, it was well written and, to me, it felt like it was written from the heart by a man who knows the music and has been influenced it by it himself.  This won’t be a read for everyone but for those who love British music, folk and rock, I would say it’s one you should pick up.  Like it a lot!

Enjoy!

Emma x

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Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: 1st June, 2017
Format: ebook
Pages: 448
Genre: non-fiction, music history
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

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

 

 

 

Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

27409074So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety six people have seen me online. They include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth year Biology teacher and my boyfriend James.

When Leah Oliphant-Brotheridge and her adopted sister Su go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels, only Leah returns home. Her successful, swotty sister remains abroad, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing a sex act in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it.

Ruth Oliphant-Brotheridge, mother of the girls, successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her dutiful, virginal daughter? What role has Leah played in all this? And can Ruth find Su and bring her back home when Su doesn’t want to be found?

Viral’s opening is pretty shocking and pulls no punches.  In a way, it feels ripped from the headlines (and possibly was?), with the story of a young woman getting caught on camera doing things that she normally wouldn’t.  However, on a girls holiday in Magaluf and fuelled by drinks and drugs, her defences were down and – as we all know nowadays – it doesn’t take long for someone to get out a phone and start recording.  And, once it was on the intranet, there is no going back.

This book just reminded me of everything I hate about the internet (which sometimes seems to overwhelm the good in it).  It shows people to be shallow, selfish and mean and just how little recourse there is for people who are it’s victims.  That’s certainly the case for Su and her family, all of whom feel the impact and all of whom come under the spotlight.

That one moment in time might be remembered forever and impact on everything you do (or can do) for the rest of your life is scary and Helen Fitzgerald makes that loud and clear and has made me think twice about everything I do online. I absolutely felt for Su and her family as their lives spiralled as a result.  After my shock, I started to feel despair.  Would any of them every be the same again?

Then there is light at the end of the tunnel (which won’t be shared for spoilers) and that made me happy.  Life, it seems, does go on and from adversity we often appear stronger and wiser. It all brought the story full circle.  I do have to wonder if in real life there would have been such a happy ending (there are a few plot leaps that make this happen and they don’t seem that based in reality but, hey, this is fiction) and that wonder has put a slight shadow over the book, but only a bit.

After my last outing with Helen Fitzgerald (The Exit), which didn’t go very well for me, this has restored my faith in an author who, for me, comes up with different storylines and strong, interesting characters.  This book was short (272 pages) and perfectly formed.  I really enjoyed it and think it’s a must read.

Enjoy!

Emma

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Source: Library
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: February, 2016
Format: ebook
Pages: 272
Genre: thriller, suspense, general fiction
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

 

 

 

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Dead Calm by Inge Löhnig

51NLOhDy8bLWhen the body of a retired paediatrician is discovered in his weekend house on Lake Starnberg, it seems clear that his death was the result of a robbery gone wrong. But as Inspector Konstantin Dühnfort starts to investigate and details of how the man met his death are revealed, an altogether murkier series of events begins to emerge – one of torture, betrayal and cruelty, of complex sibling relationships and toxic parental ambition. With a family ripping at the seams, will Dühnfort be able to uncover what really happened?

I was excited to read Dead Calm not just because it sounded right up my street but because it would be my first crime novel set in Germany.  I am a big fan or Nordic Noir and crime fiction so wondered how this would compare.  In a nutshell – really well.

In many ways, it’s similar – it’s dark and gritty – though I have to say German life doesn’t seem quite as structured or controlled.  There is much more eating, drinking and seeming to enjoy life here.  Not too much though because there is murder afoot and a murderer to be found.

In this case the victim is a respected and semi-retired paediatrician Dr. Heckeroth, who is found rather gruesomely in his lakeside cabin by his son, Albert. Albert was the apple of his eye and chosen child – with the other two (Caroline and Berstram) being ignored for the most part.  It’s an interesting and potentially explosive family dynamic which plays out as the investigation progresses and which I think Lohing uses to good effect to bring the story and the characters to life.

They also do a brilliant job with the detective’s, led by Dühnfort and supported by Gina and Alois.  Dühnfort and Gina especially are really well drawn, with enough of their personal life to make me like and care for them.  Much like my Monday read (Mercy Killing) this was very much a team effort.  Dühnfort relies on his instinct a lot but doesn’t go off on his own, working with others to get results.  I like this and it is a good change for me and my recent reads where detectives tend to go off on their own.

The story itself is full of twists and turns and I wasn’t sure till close to the end who did it (I was right – yay!). It isn’t the fastest of paced books though.  Instead, I would say it was steady.  I never lost interest and I never got bored but I didn’t feel the overwhelming urge I have with other books to stay up late or keep turning pages.  This might not be a surprise as it runs to nearly 450 pages.

I thought it was well written and well translated.  I liked getting to know each character, none of which I didn’t like to a degree (even the bad apples had redeeming features), and learning a little more about life in Munich, which sounds lovely despite the subject matter.  I am not sure if this is part of a series or the first in one, but I’ll definitely be looking out for more.  Liked it a lot!

Enjoy!

Emma x

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Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Manilla Publishing
Publication Date: 18th May, 2017
Format: ebook
Pages: 448
Genre: crime, mystery
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

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

Mercy Killing by Lisa Cutts

31129137The death of a local sex offender places the police officers at East Rise incident room under immense pressure – they must treat this case like any other murder, but they know what Albie Woodville did and can feel little sympathy. Except, as the investigation progresses, it becomes clear this isn’t just a one-off killing – someone is out for revenge …

So, despite the fact I promised myself I would stop picking up books that show a woman walking away from me (there are soooo many of them!), I did it with Mercy Killing by Lisa Cutts when I came across it at my local library.  I really can’t help myself!

Mercy Killing is a police procedural that feels real – no doubt because Lisa Cutts is a detective constable when she isn’t writing pretty good pieces of crime fiction (and has been for 20 years).   It also feels different, at least for me when I compare it to the books I’ve been reading lately.  First, the lead detective wasn’t a woman but rather a grumpy old man (Harry), one who had been a police officer for a long time and who is feeling world weary.

Second, investigating this crime seemed like a real team effort.  Harry wasn’t a man out to prove himself or with demons to fight (though he is fighting with his wife a fair deal – no police officers life can be perfect it seems).  He didn’t rush into situations without thinking, putting himself in danger as a consequence.  And he wasn’t a one man band.  He had his team do the work they were being paid to do and he did what he was being paid to do – lead them.

At first, this idea of a team all working together threw me a little but I pretty soon feel into the flow of moving between characters and started to enjoy getting to know them.  They were all interesting and all pretty strong, which they needed to be given not so much the crime they were investigating but the victim, a paedophile. Albie Woodville is a nasty piece of work and it’s probably not a surprise some officers wondered if they shouldn’t be shaking the hand of the man – or woman – who had killed him.

I’m not sure enjoyed is the right word here but for want of a better one, I enjoyed seeing how each officer responded to the victim and his crimes, how it affected them on a professional and personal level.  I also enjoyed getting to see the inner workings of the force and the way the investigation played out.  It did make for a slower pace than some other police procedurals I’ve read but I can’t say I minded it.  I didn’t get bored and my mind didn’t wander so there are no complaints here.

I have read this is the start of a new series for Lisa Cutts – who I haven’t read before – and I have to say I think she’s set a great scene.  An area (East Rise) that seems just dark enough to have some interesting criminals living in it and a cast of characters that feel like they all have more to live.  I’ll be looking out for the second book (due August I think) and would definitely recommend this book. Liked it a lot.

Enjoy!

Emma x

liked-it-a-lotSource: Library
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date: 1st September, 2016
Format: ebook
Genre: crime, mystery
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier 

Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, a diplomat’s son, Osei Kokote, knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970’s suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Peeking over the shoulders of four 11 year olds Osei, Dee, Ian, and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi, Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

New Boy is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello (read more about the original plot here) and part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series. There are five books in the series, though I’ve only read one (Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood). I’m a bit of a fan of classics being re-told (when done right), how they take the story and give it that modern twist and make it feel like new. That was definitely the case here, where if I hadn’t been aware this was based on Othello I don’t think I would have been any the wiser because it stands up in its own right.

Set in 1970’s Washington D.C., New Boy takes place in the classroom and the playground with the cast being played by a group of rather hormonal 11 year olds. Othello is now Osei, the son of a Ghanaian diplomat, new to school and the only black face in a sea of white students. He is immediately the subject of fear, speculation and, in the case of Dee (one of the most popular girls in school), love at first sight.

Her love starts to lead to acceptance from other pupils, threatening the delicate balance of playground hierarchies. Unhappy by this turn of events, “King” of the playground (Ian) schemes to bring Osei and Dee down and sets in motion an unfortunate and tragic chain of events which seem to lead to nothing but unhappy endings for everyone involved.Read More »

Tarot Court Cards for Beginners by Leeza Robertson

32284018For many tarot readers, the court cards are the most challenging cards to work with. But once you become familiar with how these enigmatic cards work, you can turn them into friends and allies that provide powerful insights and advice. Featuring stories, explanations, and simple exercises, this book explores the many facets of pages, knights, kings, and queens to enhance your journey through the tarot.

Author Leeza Robertson approaches the court cards from a variety of angles, exploring the symbols, legends, personalities, messages, and spiritual influences of each card. Providing unique tips, reading techniques, and spread ideas, this book will help you welcome the court cards into your tarot practice.

One of the things I have been trying to learn – on and off – for years, is the how to read tarot cards. I have a couple of sets which I take out regularly, along with a range of books on what the cards mean.  I find them fascinating and am always rather chuffed when I can read a spread without having to refer to these books too much (if at all).

Still, though I have a lot to learn and would class myself as a beginner.  So, having seen Tarot Court Cards for Beginners on Netgalley and seeing that Leeza Robertson’s books get good reviews on Goodreads, I thought this would be a good one to add to my collection.

As the title suggests, this book focuses on the Court cards – King, Queen, Knight and Page or princess, depending on the deck you are using.  Princess cards aren’t something I have come across before and I thought they sounded interesting so I will be looking out for them in my next deck.  The idea behind the book is that understanding the court cards can really add to your readings as they are so influential in the deck.

As the title also says, this book is for beginners and so starts with a brief history of the tarot before moving onto specific language used when reading tarot cards. It then talks about the different suits (there are four) and what they mean before moving onto the cards themselves.  Throughout there are pictures to help you understand what you are seeing and reading.  Read More »

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

imageAs World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.

I first heard of the radium girls after reading my usual crime fiction fare with a book set in 1920’s New York. They weren’t a large part of the book, but the covering up of what the radium was doing to them was a key part of the plot. So, when I saw The Radium Girls, a work of non-fiction that told the story of these women, I jumped at the chance to read it.

I am really glad I did because it shone a light on the lives of a group of incredibly brave women, some of whom literally shone thanks to the radium that stuck to their skin and made its way into their bodies and bones. Nowadays, of course, we think how could it happen but, in the 20’s radium was seen as a cure-all and nothing to be afraid of.  And when people in authority told people without it things, they tended to believe what they were told.

Radium was used in so many products, including luminous paint – which is what the women used to paint watch dials and instrument panels, pointing the tip of the brush with their tounges and consuming radium each time. It is no wonder they got ill. The fact that it took so long to link their illnesses to radium is perhaps more surprising – but no one considered it for a long time because of the variety of symptoms they suffered through.

Perhaps if the companies the women worked for had been honest about what they knew about the dangers of radium, it might have been clearer sooner, but they weren’t – resulting in the deaths of hundred (thousands possibly) of women. Reading about it is tragic but also left me shocked and angry by the behaviour of their employers.  I know it was a long time ago, but it doesn’t make what they did any more understandable or forgivable.Read More »