Blog Tour: If We Were Villains

June 15, 2017 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Thriller

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour: If We Were VillainsIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Published by Titan on 13th June 2017
Genres: thriller, Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he's released, he's greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.

As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else's story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life.

When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

I’m delighted to be today’s stop on the If We Were Villains blog tour. If you’ve missed the other stops on the tour so far you can find them all at the bottom of this post.

Dellecher Classical Conservatory is an elite art school that is home to Oliver and his six friends; all of whom are in their fourth and final year as theatre students and scholars of Shakespeare. They live, study, act and socialise with one another – their own Shakespeare-loving family.

When we meet Oliver it’s ten years later and he’s just getting out of prison where he has served time for the murder of one of these close friends. He has finally agreed to tell the lead detective the whole, true story.

The novel is structured through Acts and Scenes which tell the story of life at the school, with Preludes that focus on the now and Oliver’s release from prison. I loved this structure, in a book filled with drama, theatrics and plays it fits the theme perfectly.

Now, I studied Shakespeare in school but that was quite some time ago – and even then I’m familiar with only a few of his plays. I was slightly concerned that my ignorance might mean that I wouldn’t enjoy this novel; however I actually enjoyed it very much. I would say though that those more acquainted with Shakespeare or even with theatre as a whole would no doubt enjoy it more.

Our seven characters (I was rather confused at first with all of the names, but I soon caught on) are actors; throughout the year they adopt Shakespearean roles for a variety of plays. Indeed they even converse among one another in quotes at times. However, as the school year progresses it seems that many of the seven are struggling to leave their Shakespearean roles behind, and the line between fiction and reality becomes increasingly blurred.

This is not your typical thriller. Yes, it’s thrilling and gripping but it’s far more than that. Rio weaves her story in conjunction with Shakespearean verse. Indeed she often echoes her characters’ mindsets and actions though their study of The Bard. At first, I’ll admit I struggled a little with this style, but it’s executed so well that I soon became accustomed to the interspersions of verse.

Rio not only expertly combines Shakespeare into her narrative, but also displays her own beautiful writing.

This is quite a rollercoaster read – love, betrayal, envy, passion, friendships, this book has it all – just like the Shakespearean works it echoes.

If We Were Villains Blog Tour

three-half-stars

Blog Tour: The Cutaway

April 1, 2017 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Thriller

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour: The CutawayThe Cutaway by Christina Kovac
Published by Serpent's Tail on 6th April 2017
Genres: Mystery, thriller
Format: Hardback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

It begins with someone else's story. The story of a woman who leaves a busy restaurant and disappears completely into the chilly spring night. Evelyn Carney is missing - but where did she go? Who was she meeting? And why did she take a weapon with her when she went? When brilliant TV producer Virginia Knightley finds Evelyn's missing person report on her desk, she becomes obsessed with finding out what happened that night. But her pursuit of the truth draws her deep into the power struggles and lies of Washington DC's elite - to face old demons and new enemies.

I’m delighted today to be the first stop on The Cutaway Blog Tour. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the novel, but be sure to check out these other blogs over the next 12 days for different articles and features.

blogtour_dates (1)

Recently, I’ve become pretty interested in how the media uncover stories, how they break news and how they contribute towards the solving of crimes. I suspect that it’s my true crime podcast obsession that’s piqued this interest. So when I was asked if I’d like to review The Cutaway, the debut novel by Christina Kovac who has seventeen years of experience working in the media producing crime and political stories, well obviously I couldn’t resist.

The Cutaway follows the story of TV news producer Virginia Knightly. Virginia becomes interested in the disappearance of a young lawyer, Evelyn Carney, who vanishes one night after leaving a restaurant in Georgetown, Washington DC. Knightly is determined to uncover what happened to Evelyn and as she works on the story it becomes apparent that there are powerful people involved, people who want to keep this story out of the spotlight.

I really enjoyed this thriller. For me, it was a change from the police-centred detective tales I’ve read and enjoyed recently. I found the insight into a newsroom fascinating – the contrast between teamwork and self-preservation, the protection of sources, fact-checking, politics, beating rival channels to a story and the practicalities of a building a story ready for air.

Furthermore, I found the setting of Washington DC, the politics, the powerful personalities, as well as the media interaction really interesting.

As for the disappearance of Evelyn, I had various theories along the way – none of which were accurate!

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and find myself hoping that we might be treated to more Virginia Knightly stories in the future.

four-stars

Review: The Roanoke Girls

March 8, 2017 in Book Reviews, Mystery

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Roanoke GirlsThe Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 9th March 2017
Genres: Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Everyone wants to be a Roanoke girl. But you won't when you know the truth. Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin at the Roanoke family's rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But what she doesn't know is being a Roanoke girl carries a terrible legacy: either the girls run, or they die. For there is darkness at the heart of Roanoke, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull, she must make her choice...

When teenage Lane Roanoke’s mother commits suicide in their New York home, she has no idea what will happen to her. But it turns out that her mother’s parents, Lane’s grandparents, want her to live with them in Kansas.

She’s never met them, but they are rich, with a big house and her cousin Allegra lives with them too. So she moves to her mother’s childhood home, to embark on the next chapter of her life.

The story is told in alternating chapters of past and present. The past being Lane’s move to Kansas, and the present being her returns there after ten years because Allegra has gone missing.

The Roanoke family are no stranger to missing girls, up till now they’ve all either died or fled. So who really are the Roanoke girls and what, exactly, is happening to them?

I really enjoyed the storytelling style of this novel. I always like a book that runs a past and present narrative successfully as I feel it helps us to learn more about our characters.

I suspect that this is a book that will divide opinion. While I won’t be divulging spoilers, I will say that the content won’t be for everyone. It’s uncomfortable reading at times, and yet so well written that it’s a very hard book to put down.

Engel’s writing is very impressive. I was completely engrossed in this book, despite being appalled by much of the detail. Her characters are flawed, yet often strangely likeable – which only made me feel all the more disturbed at times!

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this and I can’t imagine it’s one that I will be forgetting any time soon.

four-stars

Blog Tour & Review: The Dry

January 13, 2017 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Crime, Mystery

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour & Review: The DryThe Dry by Jane Harper
Published by Little Brown UK on 12th January 2017
Genres: Crime, Mystery
Format: Hardback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.

I am very excited to be one of the stops on The Dry blog tour today!

friday

In rural Australia, the town of Kiewarra is in drought – it hasn’t rained for two years. The farming community, and subsequently the entire town are struggling. So when three members of the Hadler family are found dead, with Luke, the father, having seemingly taken his own life, the community are appalled but not entirely surprised – perhaps he was seeking a way out of the struggles for his family.

Aaron Falk, Luke’s childhood best friend, returns to the town he left twenty years ago for his friend’s funeral. Being back is hard. He can’t wait to return to his job as a Federal Agent in Melbourne and leave the memories behind. However, there’s a twenty-year secret that Luke and Aaron shared and it’s possible Luke’s death will bring the secret to light. This, coupled with Luke’s parents’ request that Aaron helps them investigate their son’s death, leads Falk to spend a lot more time in his hometown than he’d planned.

This book grabbed my attention from the first page and I honestly couldn’t put it down. This is Jane Harper’s debut novel and what a debut it is! Her scene-setting, the description of a rural Australian town desperate for rainfall is fantastic. I could almost feel the heat (impressive in a Scottish winter), taste the dust and crave the water myself.

The story itself flits between the real time post-Hadler murders and Aaron & Luke’s teenage years. This allows us to feel as though we know the dead man and, of course, helps us to understand Aaron himself more.

The mystery aspect of this book had me guessing throughout, with Harper’s writing and storytelling keeping me glued until the final word.

Yes, I know who really killed the Hadler family – and I highly recommend you find out for yourself!

four-stars

Review: Everything I Don’t Remember

September 3, 2016 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Translated Literature

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Everything I Don’t RememberEverything I Don't Remember by Rachel Willson-Broyles (Translator)
Published by Scribner UK on 2nd June 2016
Genres: European Literature, Contemporary, Mystery
Format: Hardback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

A young man called Samuel dies, but was it an accident or suicide? An unnamed writer with an agenda of his own sets out to piece together Samuel's story. Through conversations with friends, relatives and neighbours, a portrait emerges: the loving grandchild, the reluctant bureaucrat, the loyal friend, the contrived poser. The young man who would do anything for his girlfriend Laide and share everything with his friend Vandad. Until Vandad, marginalised and broke, desperate to get closer to Samuel, drives a wedge between the friends, and Samuel loses them both.

Everything I Don't Remember is an enthralling tale of love and memory. It is also the story of a writer who, in filling out the contours of Samuel's life, is trying to grasp a universal truth - in the end, how do we account for the substance of a life?

A young man, Samuel, is killed in a car crash. But was it an accident or was it suicide? An anonymous author decides to uncover the truth.

Everything I Don’t Remember is written as transcripts from the author’s interviews with Samuel’s family and friends.

At no point does our interviewer tell us who is talking. He jumps from person to person as he relays their memories of Samuel.  Despite this format, it’s actually easy to follow once you become accustomed to it.

This is a work of translated fiction. It’s been translated from Swedish, and is done very well. It’s a very timely novel, relevant to society across Europe right now.

Our anonymous author focusses his interviews on Samuel’s friend Panther, his best friend Vandad and his ex-girlfirend Laide, all in the effort of trying to uncover what happened that April afternoon.

So we jump back and forth between the memories and perspectives of the interviewees. But whose version of events is most accurate? Is Vandad, who tells of his solid relationship with his best friend, actually the free rider that Laide says he is? Are Laide’s memories of life with Samuel accurate or is Vandad’s darker image of her more true?

Basically as we read these accounts we aren’t sure who to trust. Does the truth lie in some kind of middle ground?

I enjoyed the way we jump from character to character without explanation. We go back and forth in time and place. It might sound confusing but it’s actually easy to follow once you get going.

Samuel’s grandmother suffers from dementia and we are repeatedly told of Samuel’s own poor memory. To me, it feels like the broken, jumping narrative echoes the confusion of this condition.

I should also say that this novel is predominately set in Sweden. It has been translated from Swedish, and honestly I’d never have known it was translated; it’s done so well.

While uncovering Samuel’s story, this novel also looks at immigration. Many of the characters we encounter are second generation immigrants. We also see the plight of immigrants in Sweden and the battles they face, through Samuel’s work for the Migration Board and Laide’s profession as a translator. This feels so relevant right now. It’s not a situation apposite to Sweden; it’s an issue that is currently being encountered throughout Europe. I appreciate how this issue is weaved into the story. It adds a different dimension to the novel and encaptures Sweden’s political past and present.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved our unreliable narrators in the form of our interviewees. I loved trying to uncover who Samuel was, from a distance. It’s an interesting way to discover a character, looking from the outside in.

The only thing I would say about this novel is that there is a lack of closure. We are presented with evidence (however flawed it may be) and have to come to our own conclusion.

The uncertainty of the ‘evidence’, the issues of memory loss, dementia, immigration, identity and life experience all make for a fantastic read. I definitely recommend it.

four-stars