#BookReview: Exquisite by Sarah Stovell @Sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks

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About the Book

Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops … Or does it?

My Thoughts

This book has such a stunning cover and from the moment I first saw it on twitter I was desperate to get my hands on a copy. I’m thrilled to say that the book is just as stunning looking in real life and, more importantly, the novel inside that cover is even better!

This is a fascinating and tense novel about two women – one a successful writer who is married with two young children, and the other is a younger woman who is unsure about her life and what she wants, although writing really appeals to her. Initially it seems that Bo sees something in Alice’s writing and wants to encourage her but when she meets her she feels such a connection to her. Alice just wants to be accepted onto a writing course and when she is, she’s thrilled. There she meets Bo, the course leader, and they fall into what seems a really natural and easy friendship.

The novel initially has alternate chapters about Alice and then Bo, but then we get a whole section on one woman and then we see a similar timeline from the other woman. This is really well done because you come to think you know who the innocent party is but then you read another bit and you’re really not sure; it really builds the suspense at a hefty pace. As Alice and Bo each narrate their own section of this novel it becomes clear that one of them has to be an unreliable narrater because they can’t both be telling the truth, although this did lead me at one point to consider whether a third party had done some meddling and inflamed the situation so it really does have you wondering. Both women have had difficult times in their pasts and they each have traits that might lead them to become unhealthily attached to someone so it was impossible to work for a long time who was likely to be the most obsessive one. I did have more sympathy for one woman over the other for most of the novel but that did waiver at points because Sarah Stovell is a master manipulator of a writer and had me second-guessing myself more than once as I was reading!

There is a lot in this novel about mothers – both Alice and Bo seem to have had a complex relationship with each of their mothers and it seems to have shaped who they are now. It made me wonder if they were looking for mother or child substitutes in their lives but it was so much more complicated than that! The novel does explore whether the things that happen in people’s younger years can affect them when they’re adults, and whether a tough time in childhood can ever be an excuse for who people become as adults.

Exquisite is a claustrophobic, tense and thrilling novel that will grab you on the first page and won’t let you go until long after you’ve read the last page. I was literally sitting stock still with the book in my hands for a good few minutes when I read the ending, and I’m still thinking about it now and mulling it over! I love when a book leaves me feeling like this!

This is one of those novels that is impossible to put down, I honestly read it in one sitting because there just wasn’t a moment where I could stop reading – I simply had to know how this book was going to end! I highly recommend you go buy a copy of Exquisite right away, you won’t regret it!

Exquisite is out now!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

sarah stovell

 

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

(Bio & Author pic taken from: Orenda Books)

Paul E. Hardisty on Claymore Stryker | Reconciliation of the Dead #blogtour @OrendaBooks

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the Orenda blog tour for Reconciliation of the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty. Paul has written a brilliant guest post about the evolution of Claymore Stryker for my stop.

 

The Evolution of Claymore Stryker

In the opening scene of my new novel, Reconciliation for the Dead, the lead character, Claymore Straker, is in Maputo, Mozambique, considering his future. It is 1997, and he is on the run, again. The events of the last few years (described in the first book of the series, the CWA Creasy New Blood Dagger shortlisted The Abrupt Physics of Dying, set in Yemen during the 1994 civil war; and the second book, The Evolution of Fear, set largely in Cyprus and Istanbul in 1995) are behind him now, but still raw in his memory.

He has just finished testifying to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, having returned to South Africa for the first time since being dishonourably discharged from the army and sent into exile over fifteen years earlier. Over three days of testimony, Clay takes us on a journey into the darkest chapter of his country’s history, revealing the horrifying events that led to him abandoning everything he was raised to believe in. It is 1980, Clay is a young paratrooper, fighting on the front lines in South Africa’s war against the communist insurgency in Angola. On a patrol deep behind enemy lines, Clay is confronted by an act of the most shocking brutality. It will change him forever. Wounded in battle, struggling to make sense of what he has witnessed, Clay tries to uncover the dark secret behind those events, and what lies hidden in apartheid’s murky core.

For fourteen years, Clay tries to forget the past, buries it deep. But as the years go by, his post-traumatic stress worsens. Then, working for an oil company in Yemen, everything starts to unravel, and the horrors of war come flooding back. As civil war erupts, he meets Rania LaTour, a French journalist. She becomes the dominant influence in his life. In the face of the terrible injustice he witnesses, he must decide whether to act, or turn away and abandon his friends. Later, in Cyprus, increasingly beguiled and influenced by Rania, he recognises his need for absolution, and realises that he must go back and tell the truth about what happened all those years ago in South Africa. Only then, he believes, will he find a measure of peace, and perhaps become the man Rania deserves.

As the series continues into its fourth, and quite possibly final, instalment (The Debased and the Faithful, due out in 2018), Clay continues to evolve as a person. In a way, I consider the series more a fictional biography in four parts, than a traditional crime series. The situations into which he is thrust, into which he drives himself, are the direct consequence of the events and the people that have shaped him. Each exerts its own unique influence, and together, combine to make him the person he is destined to become.  How it will all end, I don’t quite know yet. All I know is that Clay’s journey is not over, and is about to get a whole lot more difficult. Rania’s too.

 

About the Book

reconciliation-for-the-dead

Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier.

It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make. Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed.

Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.

About the Author

Paul Hardisty

Canadian by birth, Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia with his family.

You can find Paul on twitter: @Hardisty_Paul

(Bio taken from Orenda Books website)

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the stops on the poster below:

Reconciliation for the Dead Blog Tour poster

#BookReview: Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson #BlogTour @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks

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About the Book

Evil remembers…

Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina.
Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s.
Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again.

Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald?

Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French truecrime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to take part in the blog tour for Block 46 as I’d already heard about it and was really keen to read it.

This book was far more harrowing than I was expecting, and it was definitely more brutal and graphic in some of its descriptions and yet it was impossible to put down. I wanted to know what was going to happen, whether the case was going to be resolved and what all of the present-day murders had to do with the Buchenwald death camp.

I loved that this story is told predominantly through the eyes of a criminal profiler, Emily Roy, and a true crime investigative writer, Alexis Castells, who is also caught up in the murder of her friend Linnea. It gave a different slant to a crime novel than if it were told from a detective’s perspective and I found it really refreshing and different.

Emily is a fascinating character, I was intrigued by her all the way through the book. She has a very focused manner at times that leads her off into her own world and yet she deals with suspects so well and so cleverly. I also liked Alexis – she has a great way of being able to step back and see the bigger picture and complements Emily so well. They both have a tragedy in their pasts, which was touched on in this book so I’m interested to know more about that, along with how it’s affected them and made them who they are. I’m so pleased that there is to be a second book as I definitely want to spend more time with these two characters.

The scenes at Buchenwald were the hardest to read – it is so stark and unflinching, and I wasn’t expecting to read about the brutalities to the degree they were described. I could feel the sheer terror emanating through the pages. There were moments were I had to stop reading to just take a breath, but then the writing was so good that I was drawn to pick the book back up almost straight away.

Block 46 kept me guessing right until the very end – I genuinely couldn’t figure out who the murderer was. I thought I was onto something with a link to Buchenwald but I still picked the wrong strand to follow. I love when a book has me guessing and suspecting nearly everyone but not able to work it out; it doesn’t happen often but this book got me! I was honestly holding my breath as this novel gathered pace and I couldn’t read the words fast enough – I simply had to know who, what and where! The end, when it came, made sense but it left me reeling. I was honestly incapable of doing anything for quite a while after turning the last page, my mind wouldn’t stop turning over what I’d read. I was disturbed and unsettled by it but you’re meant to be, the writing is so brilliant.

Block 46 is harrowing, unflinching and brutal; it’s also brilliant, gripping and completely and utterly unputdownable! I highly recommend ordering a copy of this incredible crime thriller right away! I can’t wait to see what Johana Gustawsson writes next, I’ll certainly be first in line to buy it.

Block 46 was translated by Maxim Jakubowski.
Block 46 is due to be published on 15th May and can be pre-ordered now.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

Johana Photo

Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour on the stops below:

block 46 blog tour poster

See my latest book haul in this week’s Stacking the Shelves post! (18 Feb)

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Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, which is all about sharing the books that you’ve acquired in the past week!

I got 19 new ebooks this week:

The first ten of these new ebooks are all from the same publisher – the fabulous Orenda Books. Some of these I already own in paperback and others are new to me but I couldn’t resist buying them in the sale earlier this week as all were just 99p each! I’m really looking forward to all ten of these books and hope to start at least one of them during the next week.

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb

Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn

Cursed by Thomas Enger

Blackout by Ragnar Jonasson

Rupture by Ragnar Jonasson

Sealskin by Su Bristow

We Shall Inherit the Wind by Gunnar Staalesen

Where Roses Never Died by Gunnar Staalesen

 

 

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

This was the Kindle Daily Deal yesterday so I snapped it up as it’s been on my wishlist for a while. It sounds like quite a heavy read so I may not read it right away but as soon as my head is in the right space I will be picking this up.

Witness by Caroline Mitchell

This was available as part of Kindle Unlimited so when I spotted it I immediately downloaded it. I’m really looking forward to reading this and don’t think it’ll be on my TBR for long!

Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate

I’d not heard of this book before yesterday but when I read EmmasBookishCorner’s fab review I immediately went and bought a Kindle copy. It sounds like exactly the sort of book I’m craving at the moment so I plan on reading this very, very soon!

 

The following six books are all review books that I received or was approved for this week:

The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

I was so excited to be approved for this on NetGalley this week. I love Rowan Coleman’s novels anyway but this new one sounds absolutely wonderful. I can’t wait to read it.

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

I’m really enjoying thrillers and crime novels at the moment so I was thrilled to get a review copy of this book. I’m sure it won’t be on my TBR for very long!

You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood

I spotted this book in a recent NetGalley email and although I hadn’t heard of it before the premise sounds brilliant and very intriguing. I was so pleased to be approved to read it and plan to read it very soon.

The End of the Day by Claire North

This book sounds like a really good read so when I spotted it on the read now section of NetGalley I couldn’t resist downloading it.

All The Good Things by Clare Fisher

This sounded like a really lovely novel about reminding ourselves of the good things that we still have when life is a mess. I think it’ll be one I read soon.

Rest in Power by Tracy Martin

This is non-fiction about the life of Trayvon Martin. I first heard about it on another blog and thought it sounded interesting. The book wasn’t on NetGalley to request at the time but my wish was granted. I’m reading a lot of non-fiction at the moment so this one will be high on my list to read soon.

 

And 2 new audio books:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I already have the kindle version of this book but when I saw the audio version on the Audible Daily Deal this week I couldn’t resist. I’m really enjoying audio books at the moment so thought this would be a good one to listen to.

The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After by Jenny Colgan

I bought this on another Audible Daily Deal this week as it sounded like a fun, comforting listen. I’ve always had a soft spot for Jenny Colgan’s novels so hope to get to this soon.

 


 

So, that’s all of my new books from the past week. Have you bought any new books recently? Tell me all in the comments below, or if you have a stacking the shelves post on your blog feel free to post the link below too.:)

My weekly wrap up post will be on my blog tomorrow so please look out for that.