Green and Pleasant Land

‘Green and Pleasant Land’ review – a great new author discovery!

Green and Pleasant Land

Green and Pleasant Land (Fran Harman, #6) 

Before I received an ARC of this novel I am ashamed to say that I had never even heard of author Judith Cutler. After reading Green and Pleasant Land I wonder how- I now want to read all the others from the series! 

 
Synopsis:

Retired police detective Fran Harman discovers that someone doesn’t like her digging up the past when she re-opens a 20-year-old cold case.

Newly-retired, ex-Chief Superintendent Fran Harman and her partner Mark have volunteered to assist West Mercia police in reinvestigating an unsolved crime. Twenty years ago, a car was found abandoned on an isolated road running through the Wyre Forest, its hazard lights still flashing, the passenger door open. In the back, were two child seats. One was empty; in the other lay a desperately ill baby. Neither the baby’s mother nor the elder child were ever seen again.

Where had Natalie Foreman been and where was she heading? As they question those who knew the missing woman, Fran and Mark uncover worrying discrepancies and mistaken assumptions underlying the original police investigation. In their new role as civilians in a police world, they find themselves encountering hostility and resentment from some of those they question – and it’s clear that more than one key witness is not telling them the whole truth.

Green and Pleasant Land is a fantastic novel full of intriguing people and puzzling situations. This is the first novel I’d read by Judith Cutler so I started it completely unaware of what to expect!

The story is really well written and never seems rushed; it moves along at a great pace without being confusing and the author teases the reader with little clues here and there, most of which I completely missed until I looked back after reading the ending! The detail about police procedures is really interesting and I really love novels about cold cases- there’s something about characters delving into an old, unsolved mystery that really intrigues me. 

 The plot is intricate and absorbing- as are the characters; Fran is entertaining and her relationship with Mark is great! Flat or 2D characters can completely ruin an otherwise great novel so I’m really pleased that Cutler seems to skilled at creating likeable, interesting characters.

There are a few references to fairly recent real-life people or cases, such as Madeleine McCann, and this added an extra element of realism to the story which can often be absent from fiction.

Green and Pleasant Land is an intelligent, thought- provoking book that left me wanting to read more by Judith Cutler, and wondering why I’ve never read any of her previous novels (there are 5 of her previous novels in the Fran Harman series alone!) 

Thank you to the publisher Severn House Publishers for providing an advance reading copy of this novel for an honest review. 

Green and Pleasant Land is out now in hardback and out in paperback June 2015. 

Rating: 4/5

Have you read any of the Fran Harman series, or any others by Judith Cutler?

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Peter James

Peter James wins!

PD James best crime author
Peter James
was voted the Best Crime Writer of all time by WH Smith readers on Wednesday- and I’m really pleased to hear it! As a massive crime writing fan, there are loads of great novelists from this genre that I really enjoy reading and many of them made the top 20- but I am really pleased that Peter James topped the list!

Here’s the Top 20:

  1. Peter James
  2. James Patterson
  3. Val McDermid
  4. Ian Rankin
  5. Agatha Christie
  6. Martina Cole
  7. Sheila Quigley
  8. R. C. Bridgestock
  9. Karin Slaughter
  10. Tess Gerritsen
  11. Mark Billingham
  12. Patricia Cornwell
  13. Ruth Rendell
  14. Karen Rose
  15. Chris Carter
  16. Lee Child
  17. Simon Kernick
  18. P. D. James
  19. Thomas Harris
  20. Stuart MacBride

I’ve read a lot of Peter’s books but there are still plenty more on my ‘to-read’ list which I am very glad about- he’s written many stand-alone novels but my favourites by far are all part of the fantastic Roy Grace series; full list below:

  1. Dead Simple (2005)
  2. Looking Good Dead (2006)
  3. Not Dead Enough (2007)
  4. Dead Man’s Footsteps (2008)
  5. Dead Tomorrow (2009)
  6. Dead Like You (2010)
  7. Dead Man’s Grip (2011)
  8. Not Dead Yet (2012)
  9. Dead Man’s Time (2013)
  10. Want You Dead (2014)
  11. You Are Dead (2015)

The WH Smith page includes a top 100 list too, and some of the authors on there seem a little strange to be included (Cecelia Ahern? Sophie Kinsella? Nothing against their books but I wouldn’t imagine any of them as fitting in the crime category!)

I am quite disappointed that Robert Galbraith (J.K Rowling) didn’t make it into the Top 20 as the Cormoran Strike novels are, in my opinion, fantastic- but I suppose compared to the majority of others on the list Galbraith hasn’t released many books at all. Maybe in a few years’ time though!

Most of all I was incredibly surprised to see no mention anywhere in the top 100 of Peter Robinson? I think he’s a brilliant crime writer and his DCI Banks novels certainly deserve a place on the list. I suppose that, as this is voted by readers, it is what it is- but I am very surprised nonetheless!

Who is your favourite crime writer? Is there anyone you were pleased to see had made the list, or surprised that didn’t?

The Ice Twins

2015’s exciting new releases…

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…well, the ones I’m most excited about, anyway! Some of these have already been released during the first 2 month of this year and some are still to come, but all are books I am really excited to read! Check them out on Goodreads for a synopsis, and please add me on there as a friend if you haven’t already!

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins: described as “A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives”, this looks like it will be a real page turner. I’ve seen a lot of hype around it so I’m keen to see if it lives up to it all!

The Ghost Fields (A Ruth Galloway Investigation) – Elly Griffiths (out 26th March 2015): The Crossing Places (Ruth Galloway, #1)after reading The Outcast Dead  and really enjoying it, I’m looking forward to reading more from the Ruth Galloway series.

A God in RuinsA God in Ruins: A Novel – Kate Atkinson (out 7th May 2015): the second book in the Todd Family series, A God in Ruins follows on from Life After Life and focuses on Ursula’s younger brother. I hope it’s as great as Life After Life was!

The Ice Twins – S.K TremayneThe Ice Twins: a chilling story about an identical twin dying- but their mother has no idea which one… sounds interesting! It’s got over 4 stars on Goodreads too, which is always a good sign I feel!

Behind Closed Doors – Elizabeth Haynes: ‘Ten years ago, 15-year-old Scarlett Rainsford vanished whilBehind Closed Doorse on a family holiday in Greece. Was she abducted, or did she run away from her severely dysfunctional family?’ This first sentence on the back cover had me intrigued…!

Second Life Second LifeS.J.Watson: The new psychological thriller from the author of Before I Go To Sleep, this looks like it might be as good, if not perhaps better!

Red Queen Red Queen (Red Queen, #1) Victoria Aveyard: This is the first in a new trilogy called ‘The Red Queen Trilogy’ about 17 year old Mare who is a ‘Red’, one of the poverty stricken ‘commoners’ who are living under Silver rule. I’ve seen mixed reviews but am keen to give it a go, and hoping it’s not too sci-fi for my usual tastes!

Funny Girl – Nick Hornby:Funny Girl I know this actually came out in hardback last November, but it was released this month in paperback and I’m still dying to read it! It’s described as ‘a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters.’ Doesn’t that just sound great!

Finding Jake – Bryan Finding JakeReardon: Compared to We Need To Talk About Kevin, this novel tells the story of a father trying to understand his son in the aftermath of a school shooting. Full of suspense, it sounds like a really thought-provoking, interesting read.

What She Left – T.R. What She LeftRichmond (out 26th April 2015): The aftermath of the death of Alice Salmon has left everyone around her profoundly shocked… particularly an academic named Jeremy Cook, who didn’t really know her well but is piecing together every part of her life obsessively…

All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven: This YA booAll the Bright Placesk sounds like it has its similarities with The Fault in our Stars and has already been selected to be made into a film and is apparently “a heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.” 

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Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars by Ali Harris

Written in the Stars
Written in the StarsSynopsis:

Bea Bishop is horrible at making decisions. Forget big life ones, even everyday choices seem to paralyse her. She’s learned to live with this because experience has taught her that it doesn’t matter what you do, no one has the power to control destiny. Anyone who believes they can is a fool.
But as her wedding day approaches, her years of indecision are weighing heavily on her, and she can’t help but wonder, ‘What if, what if, what if….’

What if she hadn’t upped sticks and moved to London? What if she hadn’t grabbed the first job that came along and settled down with the first guy who showed an interest? But all of her questions are silenced when she slips while walking down the aisle and is knocked unconscious. In this split second her life splits into two: in one existence, Bea flees back down the aisle and out of the church. In the other she glides blissfully towards her intended.

But which story will lead to her happily ever after?

 

Written in the Stars by Ali Harris is a sweet, sliding-doors style story that touches on romance and love, happiness, family and the way your past can shape your future.

I really enjoy this kind of narrative that explores two alternative possibilities, it always interests me to read and Written in the Stars is written really well, moving along at a good pace and injecting elements of humour into some of the slightly more downbeat scenes. I enjoyed the simultaneous storylines and only got a little confused about which narrative I was reading once or twice towards the end- but this is probably more to do with the fact that the chapters don’t say which ‘life’ Bea is talking about (the one where she marries Adam or the one where she doesn’t).

Bea’s obsession with posting everything she does or thinks on Facebook wears a little thin after a while but I guess that’s just typical of today and the way our society is all about the social media! Bea is a sweet character and you’re rooting for her to figure out what she wants to do with her life and who she wants to spend it with!

Overall this was a really enjoyable, Chick-lit/ contemporary romance novel with a twist. It wasn’t too soppy or cheesy, which I liked, but it did make me feel a little emotional at times! I am looking forward to reading some more of Ali Harris’ books in the future.

Rating: 4/5

‘The Outcast Dead’- Norfolk comes alive in this great Elly Griffiths novel

The Outcast Dead (Ruth Galloway #6)

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Synopsis:

Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway has excavated a body from the grounds of Norwich Castle, once a prison. The body may be that of Victorian murderess Jemima Green. Called Mother Hook for her claw-like hand, Jemima was hanged for the murder of five children.

DCI Harry Nelson has no time for long-ago killers. Investigating the case of three infants found dead, one after the other, in their King’s Lynn home, he’s convinced that their mother is responsible.

Then a child goes missing. Could the abduction be linked to the long-dead Mother Hook? Ruth is pulled into the case, and back towards Nelson.


The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths is the first Ruth Galloway novel I’ve read, in fact the first of any Elly Griffiths books. I didn’t really know what to expect but it was lent to me by a colleague who said she really enjoyed it, especially as it’s set in Norfolk.

I found this was something I really enjoyed when reading it; a fair amount of the story takes place in and around the grounds of Norwich Castle and it was really interesting to read a novel set in Norwich where I live!

The novel was written well and the story moved along at a good pace. It wasn’t a mile-a-minute, hair-raising roller-coaster ride but the story didn’t drag at all in my opinion- it just swept me along with it!

I also didn’t find it over sensationalised like some other crime/ detective novels can be. There’s excitement and tension but it’s all quite believable. I also feel that it is refreshing to have a main character (Ruth Galloway) who’s not a police officer but rather an archaeologist, and one that proves she is just as intuitive as the police force around her. Her occupation introduces a strong element of history and, unsurprisingly, archaeology, which I loved reading about. Ruth is shown as an independent, likeable mother who isn’t perfect but also isn’t defined by being a mother alone- a likeable character and one I would like to read more of!

In The Outcast Dead Griffiths touches upon issues of relationships, both romantic and familial, and the missing child harshly highlights the difference in people’s opinions of what to takes to be a ‘good’ parent. Because of this serious subject matter I enjoyed the storyline surrounding the filming of the TV programme; as Elly Griffiths says in the section titled ‘The Outcast Dead- beginnings’, it is nice to have a little light relief from the sadder aspects of the story. The story did also press on the reader a lot the value of appreciating those around you which is very true but at some points I felt this was overplayed a little- just my opinion though.

Overall I really enjoyed this novel. It certainly makes me want to read more of the Ruth Galloway series but I didn’t feel that I lacked anything by not having read the previous novels; it’s more than fine on its own, though there was references to previous relationships between characters and other history that I guess I would pick up on more if I’d read the others. That didn’t bother me though!

If you’re looking for an well written, enjoyable novel that isn’t too far-fetched or crazy, The Outcast Dead is recommended!

Rating: 4/5

National Libraries Day in the UK

Some wonderful pictures of libraries from around the world…
Happy National Libraries day!

T. K. Flor's Blog

“Suppose we change the subject?” retorted the Cat, waving a paw at the surroundings. “What do you think of the library?”
“It’s pretty big,” I murmured, looking all around me.
“Two hundred miles in every direction,” said the cat offhandedly and beginning to purr. “Twenty-six floors above ground, twenty-six below.”
“You must have a copy of every book that’s been written,” I observed.
“Every book that will ever be written,” corrected the Cat, “and a few others besides.”
“How many?”
“Well, I’ve never counted them myself, but certainly more than twelve.”
Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book, a Thursday Next novel.

The Great Library of the Bookworld is too big to be captured in a picture. Maybe we can get a glimpse from looking at photos of libraries from around the world:

Baroque Library, PragueThe Baroque library hall inside Clementinum, Prague, Czech Republic
(Photo: Bruno Delzant, from…

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New Sophie Hannah! ‘The Telling Error’ reviewed…

IMG_0255 The Telling Error (Spilling CID, #9)

I’m a big Sophie Hannah fan. I’ve read lots of her Simon Waterhouse novels and always really enjoy reading them. They always have a twist or two to make you think and The Telling Error was no exception!

Synopsis:

Stuck in a traffic jam, Nicki Clements sees a face she hoped never to see again. It’s definitely him, the same police officer, stopping each car on Elmhirst Road. Keen to avoid him, Nicki does a U-turn and makes a panicky escape. Or so she thinks. The next day, Nicki is pulled in for questioning in connection with the murder of Damon Blundy, controversial newspaper columnist and resident of Elmhirst Road. Nicki can’t answer any of the questions detectives fire at her. She has no idea why the killer used a knife in a way that involved no spilling of blood, or why ‘HE IS NO LESS DEAD’ was painted across Blundy’s study. And she can’t explain why she avoided Elmhirst Road that day without revealing the secret that could ruin her life. Because although Nicki is not guilty of murder, she is far from innocent . . .

As usual, I’ll try not to give too much away in this review. Psychological thrillers like this are usually, in my opinion, best read with as little existing knowledge as possible.

The storyline was typical of Sophie Hannah; mysterious, tense and absorbing. I felt like some parts of the story were a little slower with more dialogue than usual, but I still felt myself really get into the narrative. I had no idea who the killer (of whom there is a glimpse right at the start) was throughout the novel and really enjoyed the reveal at the end. It was quite uncomfortable readings at times due to the subject matter- I often disagreed with Nikki’s actions- but it made the plot all the more interesting and a little different too. Sophie Hannah’s books are always so well put together – you can feel yourself being led around the different characters and ‘clues’ but they’re always just a little out of reach- at least to me anyway!

I have to say, in terms of non-Police characters there really weren’t many that I identified with or warmed to. The main character Nikki was self absorbed, annoying and generally seemed like a pretty cruel and selfish person, and the other characters were all as bad in their own ways. Nikki’s husband seemed like the only truly nice person there and his dedication to Nikki only made her seem more horrible. I won’t give anything else away but you can tell the kind of character Nikki is from the beginning really. However the characters were as complex and realistic as always- you do know there are people like that out there, even if you don’t particularly like them!

The usual characters were on top form as always; Simon was his usual straight talking and direct self and Charlie’s unique relationship with Simon and their interactions still amuses me, as do the other detectives that make up the regular cast.

This wasn’t, in my opinion, my favourite of her brilliant Simon Waterhouse novels (as the standard is so high) but it was certainly another enjoyable, intriguing read from one of my favourite authors, and it did not disappoint!

Rating: 4/5 Have you read this novel or any other of Sophie Hannah’s books? What did you think?

The Final Minute by Simon Kernick

The Final Minute- a first class thriller!

The Final Minute

The Final Minute by Simon Kernick is a fast paced novel with a wide range of different, interesting characters that combines action with suspense.

Synopsis:

‘It’s night, and I’m in a strange house.

The lights are on, and and I’m standing outside a half-open door.

Feeling a terrible sense of forboding, I walk slowly inside.

And then I see her.

A woman lying sprawled across a huge double bed.

She’s dead. There’s blood everywhere.

And the most terrifying thing of all is that I think her killer might be me …’

A traumatic car-crash. A man with no memory, haunted by nightmares.

When the past comes calling in the most terrifying way imaginable, Matt Barron is forced to turn to the one person who can help.

Ex Met cop, turned private detective, Tina Boyd.

Soon they are both on the run…

 

The Final Minute by Simon KernickThe novel is really easy to read and although a lot happens it wasn’t too hard to follow, and so I raced through it!

The story seems to focus more on Matt Barron, the guy who has lost his memory and is being chased down by ‘questionable’ characters, than Tina Boyd who is the main detective that this new series is about.

The character development was really good; I actually didn’t feel like we really learnt much about Tina Boyd as a detective, only snippets from her past but I suppose this is setting the future books up to reveal more about her character as the series goes on. I also gather that she has appeared in previous books by Simon Kernick and so is semi-established, and therefore I imagine those who have read these novels already know a little more about her, but she now has her own series (of which this is the first book!). Tina seems like quite a maverick and continues to help Matt even though she knew his history and that he had done questionable things, and it was quite refreshing to read about a dynamic, talented female ex-detective.

Also interesting is the way the novel makes you doubt the main character Matt, who seems to have had a shady past. Kernick makes you wonder sometimes if he’s actually a good guy or not, but ultimately you are rooting for him to survive until the end of the novel, which at times seems less than certain! Kernick makes you think though about the fact that people can make mistakes but if they’ve served their time the question is whether you should just forget about their past issues?

You read the story from different perspectives which I really enjoyed; it jumps mainly between Matt and Tina’s narratives but we also see some of what the ‘baddies’ are doing which really keeps the reader on their toes throughout.

I would recommend this novel to those who already love thrillers and also to anyone wanting to get into this genre- it’s fast paced and exciting whilst also being well-written; it doesn’t veer into trashy like (in my opinion) many other books in this genre tend to do an awful lot!

 

Rating: 4/5