Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Tour and Review : Two Lost Boys by L. F. Robertson

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the Two Lost Boys by L. F. Robertson
blog tour.  With thanks to Philippa at Titan Books for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.

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Published by : Titan Books
16 May 2017
Copy : Paperback provided by Publisher

The Blurb

She knows he's guilty, but guilty of what?

Janet Moodie has spent years as a death row appeals attorney. Overworked and recently widowed, she's had her fill of hopeless cases, and is determined that this will be her last. Her client is Marion 'Andy' Hardy, convicted along with his brother Emory of the rape and murder of two women. But Emory received a life sentence while Andy got the death penalty, labeled the ringleader despite his low IQ and Emory's dominant personality.

Convinced that Andy's previous lawyers missed mitigating evidence that would have kept him off death row, Janet investigates Andy's past. She discovers a sordid and damaged upbringing, a series of errors on the part of his previous counsel, and most worrying of all, the possibility that there is far more to the murders than was first thought. Andy may be guilty, but does he deserve to die?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Two lost boys is a well written legal drama.  Being a big Grisham fan I was really happy to be asked to review this title and it did give me the nostalgia of reading a JG novel.  It is what it says, it is a legal drama, and we are taken through it via female protagonist Janet Moodie. 

Moodie is living a lonely life following the death of her husband and flying of the nest by only son Gavin.  She has retreated to a quieter world, away from the city and death row and stares that make her feeling guilty about her husbands suicide.  What the reader is left with is a very simple women who is just trying to recover from a massive trauma. 

I think it is her own life upsets which compels are to tackle the case of Marion 'Andy' Hardy.  She is convinced that although guilty for sure of some part in his crime the truth has not actually come out.  She is convinced his past is the key to his way out of a death penalty.  And that is what the book investigates.  The reader is merely on the journey with Moodie and fellow investigator Dave as they try and delve into the family history and events that could have made Andy the person he is today. 

This is not a story that is going to set your world alight with twists and turns.  But, if you enjoy reading about the structure and routine that goes into the legal world in something such as a death penalty appeal, then you will enjoy this book.  It's writing flows easily and clearly, it keeps a steady pace and you really do get a good feel for the characters.  It really is quite a sad and morose story.

On occasion I did find some of the chapters a little repetitive and wasn't quite sure how they had moved the plot forward, but on the whole I did thoroughly enjoy the tale told my L. F. Robertson in this book.  The ending I at first found a little flat, but as the day wore on I realised it was a very realistic ending and, actually, I quite liked that.

Two Lost Boys by L. F. Robertson receives a solid :


About the Author

L. F. Robertson is a practising defence attorney who for the last two decades has handled only death penalty appeals.  Linda is the co-author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Unsolved Mysteries, and a contributor to the forensic handbooks How to Try a Murder and Irrefutable Evidence.  She has had short stories published in the anthologies My Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes : the Hidden Years and Sherlock Holmes : The American Years. 

Follow The Tour



Thursday, 18 May 2017

Tour & Giveaway - Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty

Book Giveaway

To celebrate the upcoming publication of
Reconciliation for the Dead (Claymore Straker Series 3) by Paul E. Hardisty (Orenda Books) 
The Very Pink Notebook is hosting a giveaway!

To get your hands on a copy of this gritty thriller click on this link and retweet the pinned tweet - Simple!  A winner will be selected at random on publication day (30 May 2017) and notified via twitter.

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Published by : Orenda Books
30 May 2017
Copy for Competition : Provided by Publisher

The Blurb

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.


Praise for Paul E. Hardisty

‘A solid, meaty thriller – Hardisty is a fine writer and Straker is a great lead character’ Lee Child

‘A trenchant and engaging thriller that unravels this mysterious land in cool, precise sentences’ Stav Sherez, Catholic Herald

‘Just occasionally, a book comes along to restore your faith in a genre – and Paul Hardisty does this in spades’ Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review

This is a remarkably well-written, sophisticated novel in which the people and places, as well as frequent scenes of violent action, all come alive on the page...’ Literary Review

‘Hardisty doesn’t put a foot wrong in this forceful, evocative thriller … the author’s deep knowledge of the settings never slows down the non-stop action, with distant echoes of a more-moral minded Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne’ Maxim Jakubowski


About the Author

Canadian Paul E 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 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's.  Paul is a university professor, visiting professor at Imperial College, London, and Director of Australia's national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaption research programmes.  His debut thriller was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger and Telegraph thriller of the year.  He lives in Western Australia.


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Review : The Vinyl Detective - The Run-Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel

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Published by : Titan Books
9 May 2017
Copy : ARC copy received from publisher

The Blurb

His first adventure consisted of the search for a rare record; his second the search for a lost child. Specifically the child of Valerian, lead singer of a great rock band of the 1960s, who hanged herself in mysterious circumstances after the boy's abduction.

Along the way, the Vinyl Detective finds himself marked for death, at the wrong end of a shotgun, and unknowingly dosed with LSD as a prelude to being burned alive. And then there's the grave robbing...
 

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The second in a trilogy, The Vinyl Detective - The Run-Out Groove, is another well written, laugh out loud (well, I did) confident offering from Andrew Cartmel.

Thrust back into the world of the Vinyl Detective (name of the character is, as yet, not revealed - which must be quite tricky for the author to work around!) I did wonder how similar the storyline would be to the first, given essentially at the beginning the protagonist was after another rare record.  I need not have worried, it is vastly different and again, despite the humour running throughout it is actually a serious plot.

Packed with another set of punchy characters, I was glad to see the return of some others, namely Nevada, Tinkler, Stinky and Fanny and Turk (the cats) and to travel around the rocker scene of past era's in the search for the truth about wild child Valerian.  We are given a colourful history of the women in question via people who were close to the singer, and discover some uncomfortable truths about her family along the way.

Of course, when the truth is somewhat misty, it is usually so for a reason and the Vinyl Detective and Co quickly discover there is someone that wishes for it to remain that way.  Not quite sure if they are in 'Paranoia Heights' after their last dramatic escapade, the gang must try and determine who they can trust, if anyone.

Although it didn't have me quite as 'on the edge of my seat' as book number one, I did thoroughly enjoy book number two and would again highly recommend it.  I also learned what, exactly, a Run-Out Groove is.

As such The Vinyl Detective - The Run-Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :


About the Author

Andrew Cartmel is a novelist and screenwriter.  His work for television includes Midsomer Murders and Torchwood, and a legendary stint as Script Editor on Doctor Who.  He has also written plays for the London Fringe, toured as a stand-up comedian, and is currently co-writing with Ben Aaronovitch a series of comics based on the bestselling Rivers of London books.  He lives in London.

The Vinyl Detective Books

The Vinyl Detective The Run-Out Groove is out on 9th May 2017.
The Vinyl Detective Victory Disc is out May 2018.
    

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Review : The Vinyl Detective - Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel

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Published by : Titan Books
10 May 2016
Copy : Paperback - Received from Publisher

The Blurb


He is a record collector — a connoisseur of vinyl, hunting out rare and elusive LPs. His business card describes him as the “Vinyl Detective” and some people take this more literally than others.

Like the beautiful, mysterious woman who wants to pay him a large sum of money to find a priceless lost recording — on behalf of an extremely wealthy (and rather sinister) shadowy client.

Given that he’s just about to run out of cat biscuits, this gets our hero’s full attention. So begins a painful and dangerous odyssey in search of the rarest jazz record of them all…


The Very Pink Notebook Review


Behind the slapstick style jacket of Written in Dead Wax lies an extremely complex plot which Andrew Cartmel delivers with both ease and humour.

I absolutely loved the way this book has been written, it is plain, straight-forward and down to earth.  Even though it has a lot of information about vintage record collecting, all it's quirks and anomalies, it is never once dull, boring or pretentious.  This is all down to the protagonist, the Vinyl Detective himself - an ordinary, run of the mill, cat loving chap - who happens to have an absolute and complete obsession with finding and collecting / selling (depending on how broke he is) - you guessed it - Vinyl.  And not just any vinyl, Jazz, which as it turns out can turn into a rather sinister business.  And it is the Vinyl Detectives plain ordinariness which makes him so endearing to the reader.

Scraping by on lucky finds of unusual vinyl's and selling them on the net is a far cry from where he finds himself when beautiful, intelligent and sharp-witted Nevada enters his life with the opportunity of a lifetime - unfortunately for him, he finds that because of the opportunity it could possibly be a short lifetime because the more involved he gets in finding the elusive vinyl he is commissioned to track down, the higher the body count becomes... but he is so honest and normal about everything the title of 'hero' is not out of place.

Add to the mix a couple of geeky and typical guy friends, you have a mix perfect for a good injection of humour to punctuate what actually becomes a fairly serious storyline including murder most foul, robberies and sabotage.

Now, when I started reading 'Side One' (clever huh!) I was enjoying it most certainly, but you quickly realise there is going to be far more to this book than merely the hunt and race to find the vinyl, then you reach 'Side Two' and a whole different pace begins.  'Side Two' I read in one sitting - I could not put it down and was pleased that the humour I was enjoying so much did not dissipate.

I liked how complete this book felt, it had a clear beginning, middle and end with all questions getting answers.  I thoroughly enjoyed all the dialogue between the characters and at one point or another I questioned them all, which again demonstrated confident and tight plotting and writing.

I am already looking forward to reading more in the first person eyes of The Vinyl Detective and discovering if Nevada sticks around, if Tinkler still has an obsession for grapes and if the cats manage to survive the 'road to rehab' (see opening chapter of book!)

The Vinyl Detective - Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel gets a must read Very Pink Notebook rating of :


About the Author

Andrew Cartmel is a novelist and screenwriter.  His work for television includes Midsomer Murders and Torchwood, and a legendary stint as Script Editor on Doctor Who.  He has also written plays for the London Fringe, toured as a stand-up comedian, and is currently co-writing with Ben Aaronovitch a series of comics based on the bestselling Rivers of London books.  He lives in London.

The Vinyl Detective Books

The Vinyl Detective Written in Dead Wax is available NOW.
The Vinyl Detective The Run-Out Groove is out on 9th May 2017.
The Vinyl Detective Victory Disc is out May 2018.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Tour and Review - Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the tour for
Kjell Ola Dahl's, Nordic Noir, Faithless
With thanks to Karen and Anne at Orenda Books
for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.

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Published by Orenda Books
15 May 2017
Copy - Received from publisher as part of Blog Tour

The Blurb

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back and this time, it’s personal… When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he ponders the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda investigates a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again. 

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Although the blurb notes that the characters are 'back' and this novel is one in a series, it is perfectly readable as a stand-alone book.  I have been lucky enough to read quite a lot of Nordic Noir this year so when Faithless came onto the radar I was looking forward to reading it.

I have to say, I did struggle a little bit to actually get into it initially.  I found there were a lot of characters and story-lines and it all seemed a little disjointed to me.  I did find I had to go back and re-read parts on several occasions, but this is a slow burn book and gradually things did come together and I realised just what a complex plot the author has written.

The tone of the book - as you can gather from the synopsis - is very dark, however, Dahl has written in some absolute gems of cutting humour via the characters interaction and dialogue when in the police station / work environment setting.  For me, it made the characters very real and relatable.  Everyone knows the sort of characters you get at work and how annoying some of their habits can be and the author has tapped these into the story really well, lightening up what could be a rather grim read.

As I said, I did have to re-read a few sections and for me the writing didn't flow quite as easily as I like, but still it is confident and powerful writing with particularly nice use of imagery of Norway and
use of the weather to really add to the atmosphere building within the plot.  This book gives a very good lesson in showing and not telling.

If you like a gritty, complicated, police procedural novel to sink your teeth into then Faithless is a must read for you.

Faithless (Oslo Detectives) by Kjell Ola Dahl receives a Very Pink Notebook Rating of :

Follow the Tour

Image result for faithless kjell ola dahl
  
 
About the Author

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjovik, Norway.  He made his debut in 1993 and has since published fifteen novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frolich.  In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he has also been awarded both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015.  His work has been published in fourteen countries.  He lives in Oslo.

About the Translator

Don Barlett lives with his family in a village in Norfolk.  He completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbo and Karl Ove Knausgard.  He has previously translated The Consorts of Death, Cold Hearts, We Shall Inherit the Wind and Where Roses Never Die in Gunner Staalesen's Varg Veum series.



Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Review : Amnesia by Michael Ridpath

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Published by Corvus (Atlantic Books)
04 May 2017
Copy - Paperback from Readers First


The Blurb

Alastair Cunningham wakes up in hospital with almost total amnesia. But he knows that something terrible happened in his past, something that haunts him still. A young family friend, Clémence is called in to help rekindle his memory. Retreating with Alastair to his remote cottage, Clémence finds a peculiar manuscript hidden away from prying eyes. Reading the prologue, she discovers a murder by someone very much like a young Alastair. The victim? Clémence’s grandmother, Sophie. Could this kindly old man truly be a killer? Clémence becomes determined to find out what happened all those years ago, even if she must risk everything to do so…


The Very Pink Notebook Review

This book starts in the thick of the action, immediately drawing you in and encouraging you to read on. Within the first few chapters the author establishes, very confidently and clearly, the two main characters, Clemence and Alastair who develop a clever and sometimes amusing, relationship.

Trying to regain his memory and piece together his life becomes a novel within a novel as the two read a seemingly autobiographic manuscript they find back at the cottage.  The reader is taken back to Alastair's life as a young man at University and the relationships he develops there which result in long reaching consequences.  A truly tangled web of deceit is woven involving love lost, money and murder.

At first it seems clear, the reader is being told the true story via the novel, but several elements do not quite make sense and Clemence is not convinced things are as straightforward as the book suggests, and indeed they aren't, thus you are then taken on a blind excursion of discovery to find out just what piece of vital evidence has been taken away and why and by whom...

The use of the environmental setting, dark and brooding Scotland in winter, seems to be the perfect backdrop for the tone of the novel, as in looks can be deceiving. The beauty of Scotland can draw you in but be lethal if not handled correctly. Well written and paced this novel is gripping and enticing.  I had my suspicions about half way through of what may happen at the end and although it did there was also so much I did not see coming!  I have to say, the final two pages of the novel were brilliant and I loved what the author has done - it certainly made me smile. 

I will most certainly be reading more from Michael Ridpath.

Amnesia receives a must read Very Pink Notebook Rating of :


Monday, 24 April 2017

Review : Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister

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Published by : Penguin Random House
09 March 2017
Copy : Paperback - Reviewer Purchase


The Blurb

It all started with the email.

Rachel didn't even mean to look. She loves Jack and she's pregnant with their child. She trusts him.

But now she's seen it, she can't undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.

Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn't Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

My purchase of this book followed lots of hype and rave reviews on Twitter and I do love a debut novel, especially in the domestic noir / psychological thriller genre. 

Everything but the Truth isn't a read with one eye story, but it is an intriguing insight into how quickly people can jump into a life with someone they barely know and the subsequent consequences.  Protagonist Rachel finds this out after falling pregnant by relatively new boyfriend Jack and as it comes to light that Jack may not be quite who he seems, Rachel has to question - is anyone perfect?  And along comes the debate about how much of someone's past should and can be brushed over.

Rachel wrestles with many issues over the course of this book, but essentially they all boil down to 'relationships'.  The relationship between herself and her mother.  The relationship she has as a doctor with patients.  Her own romantic relationships.  They are cleverly woven in and out of the main plot of discovering Jack's past.  Told from only the viewpoint of Rachel we learn about her own chequered history, which certainly muddies the waters about her reliability about what she is perceiving and although this isn't a book that goes at staggering speed or has big epic scenes, it is a real page turner.  The issues it deals with are very possible and does make you question - what if?  It is confidently written and the characters are well rounded and developed, all of them with their own flaws, they could easily be people you could know in your own life.

Everything but the Truth is a well plotted and enjoyable debut novel.

The Very Pink Notebook therefore gives this book :

 



Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Review : A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

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Published by : Doubleday
23 March 2017
Copy : Paperback received from Alison Barrow

The Blurb

It was a first class deception that would change her life forever

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.

By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

This novel is a drama suspense of which I thoroughly enjoyed.  With beautiful, languid story-telling, I was completely absorbed into the world of Lily Shepherd, on passage aboard the liner, Orontes, to a new adventure to Australia.  Lily, herself 'tourist class', is somewhat caught in the middle of a class war on board.  She is given a glimpse into the world of First Class by the scandalous and morally outcast socialites, The Campbells, whilst also learning passengers may sit on the same class level aboard the great ship are not all seen as equals.  Add to this the tumulus background rumbling of a World War on the brink of an imminent break out, the ground on which these characters find themselves are truly unsteady waters.

Lily is somewhat naïve to the world and you find yourself loving her for it, it makes her an honest narrator, if not always reliable given her limited knowledge of the world.  This novel is about so many things but what stood out for me was the personal journey of Lily who grows and has her eyes opened to the harsh realities of the world more in three weeks than she has her entire life.

Lily is more than a likable character, she is lovable.  I found myself wanting to protect her from the harsh reality of life.  She is still so childish in many ways which only goes to highlight the complex lives of the other people on board.  If only they had lived such a sheltered life as Lily, maybe they would be better for it.  Although we learn Lily is running and mourning her own drama, compared to the others it seems so innocent. 

Lily is truly like a central orb in this novel from which everyone rotates, all wanting and needing her for their own selfish gain.  However, Lily is not as weak as she may exude, after all she has chosen and made happen this adventure many would only dream about.

At the end of the book the author notes mention the novel is inspired by the real life diary of a young female passenger who really did embark on a personal journey to Australia and the novel is richer for it.  Beautiful vivid imagery combined with a powerful plot and complex yet likeable characters make this book a compelling read. 

And by the way, you may think you see that twist coming, but you really haven't...

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys gets a Very Pink Notebook Review of :





Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Tour and Review : Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the tour for Sherri Smith's psychological thriller Follow Me Down.  With thanks to Philippa Ward at Titan books for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.

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Published by : Titan Books
21 March 2017
Copy : Paperback - Received from Publisher as part of blog tour


The Blurb

THEY SAY ONLY THE GUILTY RUN

Mia never intended to go home again, but has no choice when her twin brother goes missing.  Back to the people she left behind, the person she used to be, and the secrets she thought she'd buried. 

Her brother Lucas, a popular teacher, has disappeared on the same day as the murdered body of one of his students was pulled from the river.  Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas's affair with the teenager, and unable to reconcile the media's vicious portrayal of Lucas with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he's innocent, why did he run?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

If you like gritty psychological thrillers combined with the dynamics of messed up families then this is a book for you.  Follow Me Down is a very dark and twisted tale and when I say twisted I mean it, in every possible sense.

The reader is thrown right into the story from the first page, when protagonist Mia, a Chicago based pharmacist, receives a call from the police alerting her to the fact her twin brother Lucas, popular school teacher who still lives in the small minded town they grew up in, is missing.  However, not only is he missing, he is wanted.

Smith has cleverly filtered the story through the mind of Mia, you are in her head and go on the journey of discovery as solely seen through her eyes.  The problem with her eyes is they are often tainted by abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol - unreliable narrator alert.  Obviously Mia is convinced of her brother's innocence, or is she?  Even as an unreliable narrator, the author manages to pass every conceivable idea through Mia's mind, who tries to weigh up the probability of these things happening.  She then starts piecing together parts of the puzzle that is the situation and finds things and people in the small town are not always what they seem.  Slowly, and a little crazily, she starts to form a picture of what was going on right up to the day the body was discovered and her brother went missing. 

As I said, there are so many twists and turns in this book you can get quite dizzy, but that is brilliant because every possibility is really quite feasible and I had absolutely no clue as to where this ride was going to end, and what a well executed ending it was, with all ends tied up, some of them somewhat messily for the characters.

This novel has a host of unlikeable characters and this may be a little controversial, having seen some other reviews, but I actually didn't dislike Mia at all.  I also loved their narcissistic mother Mimi as well.  In fact, in the end I really felt quite sorry for her.

This book has a complex plot that Sherri Smith has managed to deconstruct and deliver in an easy, fast paced and exciting novel.  I would highly recommend it to psychological thriller lovers that like their work on the dark side.

Follow Me Down receives a highly recommend Very Pink Notebook rating of :


Follow The Tour


About The Author

Sherri Smith spends time with her family and two rescue dogs, and restores vintage furniture that would otherwise be destined for the dump.  She lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where the long, cold winters nurture her dark side.  Follow Me Down is her first thriller.


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Tour and Review : Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for the new book by Matt Wesolowski, Six Stories.  With thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for involving me in the tour and for an early copy of the book.

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Published by : Orenda Books
30 March 2017 (Print)
Copy : Paperback - Received from publisher

The Blurb

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries' mysterious death. And who's to blame… As every interview unveils a new revelation, you'll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The first thing that caught my eye with this book was the artwork.  At first glance I thought I was looking at the scratchings of an audio recording, but on closer inspection it transpires to be a wide angle shot of very tall trees and their reflection, but this is all very deliberate and once you read this book you discover why.

Just from the blurb the setting, Scarclaw Fell, made my skin crawl.  The author instantly creates such a chilling atmosphere I actually felt physically cold while I was tucked up under my duvet reading.  The great outdoors of the Fell - it's brooding darkness and wildness, it temperamental and ever-changing mood is the perfect environmental setting.  For me, the place entirely matched the themes of this book.

The body of a teenage boy, Tom Jefferies, is discovered a year after he went missing on a trip to Scarclaw Fell.  What follows is a case of discovery, but in a fairly unique way.  The reader is not taken on the journey via the police investigation, which by the time we enter the story is already done and dusted.  It is not the story of Tom's family trying to find out what happened to their son.  It is not a journalist, the story and its potential sensation has already been put to bed.

Instead it is a pod-caster, Scott King, who just enjoys pulling together information of mysterious events of cases that have been closed.  What the reader is then presented with are the facts of the night - through the eyes of people involved and or close to the deceased.  Meaning - extremely unreliable narration - which is the for the reader, or listener should I say, to decide how much is accurate when almost everyone closely involved had an agenda and at the time was an angst ridden teenager.  But don't get me wrong this isn't one of those frustrating novels that you can't find an anchor point to cling on to because we have the neutral insight of Scott King himself.  The voice of King summarises the facts giving opinions from both sides of the coin, always leaving the reader / listener to draw their own conclusion.

The unusual penmanship of the novel with its original structure and style, I didn't know if I would get on with at first.  Could I read a book in the style of a script of a pod-cast?  Would it get annoying?  The answer no, I quickly realised it didn't matter.  What you have is a really good story, told really well.  With the multiple viewpoints the script is kept varied and pacey even though it is the same story told by six different voices and always moving the plot forward.  I enjoyed the summary sections at the beginning and the end of each pod-cast by King and being taken to the present day with Scarclaw Fells owner and body finder Harry. 

For me this novel reminded me of The Blair Witch project, where things not happening and dark issues being alluded to but not shown in graphic detail are actually more frightening than anything else.

I loved the ending of this novel and felt it stayed true to the author's intent.  Six stories is a distressing tale looking at extreme ends of teenage group dynamics and parenting issues to name but a few of the things it touches on, whilst telling the story of what happened to Tom Jefferies on that fateful night in 1996.

Six Stories get a highly recommend to read Very Pink Notebook Rating of :


  

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Orenda - SIX STORIES Blog Tour




Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review : The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to present
The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse
Review on publication day. 
With thanks to the author for an ARC of the book.

The Idea of You

Published by : Lake Union
21 March 2017
Copy : Paperback - Received from Author

The Blurb

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter dares to hope that she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But the reality of becoming parents proves much harder than Lucy and Jonah imagined. Jonah’s love and support is unquestioning, but as Lucy struggles with work and her own failing dreams, the strain on their marriage increases. Suddenly it feels like Lucy is close to losing everything…

Heart-wrenching and poignant, this latest work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: what does it mean to be a mother in today’s hectic world? And what if it’s asking too much to want it all?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The Idea of You is yet another poignant and moving novel from best seller Amanda Prowse.  The beauty of this author's writing is that is so very real.  Amanda has a knack of taking an issue and pin-pointing the beating heart of it, she then writes a true and heart-rending novel around it.

This book is another case in point.  Motherhood.  This is something many people are able to take for granted.  They try for a baby, have a good pregnancy, have the baby and off they are on the road of parenthood.  But Amanda stops, with The Idea of You, to look at those not so lucky, the one's who can't just go through the natural course and rhythm of conceiving, carrying and delivering a child.  She unravels the emotional upheaval this can create, the distress and misery grief can cause when one hope after another is dashed and how this can filter out and tarnish every inch of life. 

Protagonist Lucy is in an emotional minefield throughout the course of the book.  Her longing for a child with husband Jonah threatens to overrule everything, as her heartache and sorrow of not being able to successfully carry a child becomes ever more the reality of her world.  On top of this she undertakes a stressful job, having been highly successful within her career and is trying to cope with her new role as a step-mother to a teenager girl who has issues of her own.  As a main character I did not overly warm to Lucy, but that is hardly surprising given how strung out the poor women is.  Sometimes she seems tightly wound, and that is because she is, for good reason.  Amanda has skilfully and very realistically managed to demonstrate how very good relationships can fall apart over, what may seem trivial things, but that are huge if not discussed, or if the people trying to deal with them are already so emotionally stretched they can't see the wood through the trees.  If communication breaks down, then nothing works.

This novel, sensitively written, looks at the issue of motherhood in full circle, which I really enjoyed.  Although told from the point of view of Lucy, the author has cleverly dealt with all aspects of motherhood throughout the other characters in the book with each mother in the book representing a different aspect or dilemma.  I always enjoy the pace and fluidity of this novelists work, it makes her books so easy to read and digest even though they are very often dealing with controversial and emotional subjects.

Never to be disappointed with a new novel by Amanda Prowse, The Idea of You receives a highly recommend Very Pink Notebook rating of :





Friday, 17 March 2017

Tour and Review : Parallel Lines by Steven Savile

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for new crime novel 'Parallel Lines' by Steven Savile.  With thanks to Philippa Ward at Titan Books for involving me in the tour and for an early copy of the book.

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Published by : Titan Books
14 March 2017
Copy : Paperback - Received from publisher

The Blurb

How far would you go to provide for your child?


Adam Shaw is dying, and knows he’ll leave his disabled son with nothing. His solution? Rob a bank. It’s no surprise that things go wrong. What is surprising is that when another customer is accidentally shot, no one in the bank is in a hurry to hand Adam over to the police. There’s the manager who’s desperate to avoid an audit, the security guard with a serious grudge against the dead man, and the woman who knows exactly how bad the victim really was...


Eight people, twelve hours, one chance to cover up a murder. But it’s not just the police they have to fool. When many lives intersect, the results can be explosive.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

As soon as I read the first paragraph from the blurb of this book, I knew I had to read it.  I have a disabled son myself and as any parent, not just those with children with special needs knows, thinking about their future should anything happen to you is one of the most important, but scary, things you have to do as a mother / father.  It is also one of the most common things that is avoided until something shakes you up to take a stand. 

But what if that shake up call comes sooner than you expected and gives you little time to get their future covered?  What if, like the majority of the population you do not have a lifetime of funds to leave, especially when your child has disabilities?  A child who will never be able to earn their own living and the cost of having them cared for never reduces.  Your options aren't vast.

This is the crux of the book.  A desperate dying man, driven to desperate measures.  Now, I was expecting this book to be a mixture of both the heist and of protagonist Adam's life, with son Jake.  I was wrong and somewhat surprised, but not disappointed.  Apart from a few scenes at the beginning, which are essential, the novel doesn't leave the boundaries of the bank robbery.  And it works brilliantly. 

The author keeps the reader in close so the intensity of the situation is never lost.  Every character involved in the robbery has their own agenda and Savile has cleverly written on so many levels it manages to capture beautifully the dark side of human nature; when an opportunity for revenge for a life long grudge materialises will you take it?  Can money really buy silence?  If one descents from the pack should they be sacrificed?  It sets your mind thinking about a whole host of moral dilemma's.

Although this is a highly intense novel it does have some bits of dark humour which I enjoyed.  This is managed because it is written from the viewpoint of all eight people in the bank.  Each has their own little mini-story which lays the foundation for how the plot weaves together.  Savile has injected just the right about of personality into each so that one is not stronger or weaker than the other, they are just all very different.  By using this style the pace is kept moving along quickly and the variety compels you to keep turning and turning those pages, meaning you can not put the darn book down!

This is one of those novels screaming out to be transferred to screen, the writing is excellent, the characters are dynamic, the plot strong and it just leaves you asking yourself what you would do if you found yourself in the same situation (and I don't just mean in the situation of the protagonist either...)

I really can not recommend this book highly enough - but be warned, read it on a day you can just sit and read because you will not want to put it down.

Parallel Lines by Steven Savile gets a Very Pink Notebook rating of :




 



Monday, 13 March 2017

Author Guest Post : Past or Present Tense? By Thomas Enger

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be hosting a guest post from Cursed author, Thomas Enger, discussing why the fourth instalment in the Henning Juul collection is a little different from the rest...


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Past or present tense?


If you have made it to Cursed, having read the first three novels in my Henning Juul series (Burned, Pierced, Scarred) you may have noticed a change in the fourth instalment in the series.

Know what it is?

No?

Well, let me tell you.

I'm always looking for ways to improve as an author, and that means experimenting a whole lot. The very first draft of Burned, the first book, was written in first person perspective, but my editor wanted me to change that, so I did. They made me change a bunch of other things as well, but that's another story.

Burned is written in the present tense, and the reason for that is that I just liked it when I first started writing the story. So it stuck with me until I was finished. And because I had written the first novel that way, it wrote the second and third one that way, too. I liked how close you get to the story when you're reading something that sort of takes place right then and there. That's certainly how it feels, right, when you read it? You are part of the journey somehow, you're sitting on the shoulder of the narrator, experiencing things that very second, with the characters in the story.

A little side note here: After I wrote the first three Henning Juul novels, I had a bit of time before the deadline for the fourth one was due, so I decided to finish another project I had been working on for quite some time, a dark fantasy young adult thriller called The Evil Legacy. That one I wrote in the first person present tense, and I had so much fun going back to that kind of narrative, so when the time came to go back to Cursed, I felt like having some more fun, to experiment some more. Besides, I had four novels under my belt. I knew a bit more about storytelling at that point.

So I decided to change again.  To the third person past tense perspective this time. Again, I was trying to improve, to push myself, and that meant getting out of my comfort zone.

It took me a while to get used to that way of telling a story, but I found the exercise helpful and rewarding in the sense that I felt more like a storyteller doing it that way, with the bird's eye view on everything. I'm in complete control, and you, as a reader, just have to go along for the ride and let me guide you through the story. I disclose to you just the details I want you to know at that particular point in the story.

Writers usually stick to the way they're most comfortable with, which is perfectly fine, of course. But isn't it funny how some readers just can't read a story that's told in the present tense, while others absolutely adore it? I actually had one editor assigned to me who was so opposed to stories told in the first tense that he couldn't bring himself to work with me in the end.

Books.

What a wonderful invention.

What it comes down to, I guess, is just taste. There are no "best ways" to write, or "best ways" to read, we just pick and choose what we like the most.

Me?

I like all kinds. I'm in love with stories, whether they are told in the first or the third person, whether they are told in the past or the present tense, whether they feature a male or a female protagonist, whether it's set in Oslo or Orlando, or if it's raining or scorching hot, as long as the narrative makes me feel something, and think. That's most the important thing. To me.

What are your preferences, and why? Would love to hear your thoughts. 
T : @EngerThomas

About the Author

Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist.  He made his debut with the crime novel Burned in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication.  Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo's underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news.  Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date.  In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult).  Enger also composes music and he lives in Oslo.

T : @EngerThomas

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Tour and Review : Cursed by Thomas Enger

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of Thomas Enger's, CURSED, blog tour this week.  With much thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for involving me in the tour and for a copy of the book.

Cursed (Henning Juul)

Published by : Orenda Books
1 March 2017
Translated by Kari Dickson
Copy : Paperback received from publisher

The Blurb

What secret would you kill to protect? When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. With the loss of his son to deal with, as well as threats to his own life and to that of his ex-wife, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

This is the first 'Henning Juul' novel I have read and now I understand why everyone wanted to get their hands on a copy of this book.  It is utterly brilliant.  The plot is so intricate it is almost mind boggling, but the author sets it out within such a superb structure I did not get lost once or have to re-read a single thing.

Through two main protagonists, ex husband and wife, Henning and Nora we are taken on a complex journey to discover two different mysteries; What happened to Hedda Hellberg and who set fire to Henning Juul's apartment causing the death of Nora and Henning's son Jonas.  With the plot criss-crossing and twisting and turning all the time it really is a rollercoaster ride for the reader and believe me, you will not be able to put this book down.

Enger has written in third person narrative, but has an amazing ability to really keep the psychic distance close and powerful, making for a compelling and nail-biting read.  By swapping between Henning and Nora as narrators the pace is non-stop and not one chapter is superfluous to the plot.  As well as being gripping it is gritty without being horrifying, as it could so easily have been when dark underworlds are explored by novelists. 

The novel is not one of those who only teases with snippets of information throughout only to have a weak and disappointing ending.  You are constantly discovering meaty pieces of the plot which the author spends the last quarter of the book seamlessly weaving together to produce a clever and well thought out ending, which I did not see coming, I also suspect that Henning Juul is far from done investigating either...

All of the characters in this book seemed very real, there were no pantomime good or bad ones.  They are complex and I felt the author has a very deep understanding of them, which is obviously why the novel made for such good reading - the passion of plot and exemplary writing was never going to provide anything less.

I can not recommend this book highly enough.  Cursed receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :


About the Author

Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist.  He made his debut with the crime novel Burned in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication.  Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo's underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news.  Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date.  In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult).  Enger also composes music and he lives in Oslo.

T : @EngerThomas

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Cursed Blog tour.jpg




Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Review : This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey


Published by : Yellow Jersey Press
14 July 2016
Copy : Hardback - Borrowed from Library

The Blurb

The inspirational story of athlete Jo Pavey, the runner and mum who ran at a record-breaking fifth Olympic Games at Rio 2016.

'Come-back races? I've had more than a few, the night of 10 May 2014 was the ultimate long shot. I was a forty-year-old mother of two who had given birth eight months before. I trained on a treadmill in a cupboard by the back door and I was wearing a running vest older than most of the girls I was competing against. Was I crazy?'

Jo Pavey was forty years old when she won the 10,000m at the European Championships. It was the first gold medal of her career and, astonishingly, it came within months of having her second child.
The media dubbed her ‘Supermum’, but Jo’s story is in many ways the same as every mother juggling the demands of working life with a family – the sleepless nights, the endless nappy changing, the fun, the laughter and the school-run chaos. The only difference is that Jo is a full-time athlete pushing a buggy on her training runs, clocking up miles on the treadmill in a cupboard while her daughter has her lunchtime nap, and hitting the track while her children picnic on the grass.

Heartwarming and uplifting, This Mum Runs follows Jo’s roundabout journey to the top and all the lessons she's learnt along the way. It is the inspiring yet everyday story of a mum that runs and a runner that mums.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

I love to read an autobiography. I love how a book neatly summarises the chaos that is somebodies life, the highs, the lows, the achievements.  When it comes to reading autobiographies of athletes, I think there have been mixed success, too many times I have read what could literally be a statistics book strung out over 200 pages.  Jo Pavey's 'This Mum Runs' is not one of those books however.

From the very first page it is written with the same gentle humility that Jo Pavey has become renowned for and this continues consistently right to the last chapter.  It is well structured and although, yes, it has a few snapshots of statistics about races and athletics, it is more over about Jo Pavey as an all round person - being a elite athlete is merely her day job.

The important thing here is that this particular athlete actually has a very interesting story to tell.  We all love to hear the inspiration behind anyone who is the top of their game in any field, be it athletics or not, but to be honest sometimes even though they are the best at what they do, it just hasn't been a very interesting journey to get there, thus it shows in the autobiography.

In this book however, we are given a great insight into what makes this person, Jo Pavey, who she is; a mother, wife, an elite athlete - and what makes her world tick.  The life events of Jo are worth reading about and make for a great story to tell.  This autobiography does not shy away from real life, blinding the reader with just the bare bones about athletics which becomes slightly dull, it is honest, it is humorous and it is enjoyable.

This Mum Runs by Jo Pavey receives a Very Pink Notebook - Highly Recommend - rating of :




Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Review : What My Body Remembers by Agnete Friis

What My Body Remembers

Published by : Soho Press, Inc. 
17 May 2017
Copy : Paperback - Received from publisher

The Blurb

Ella Nygaard, 27, has been a ward of the state since she was seven years old, the night her father murdered her mother. She doesn't remember anything about that night or her childhood before it but her body remembers. The PTSD-induced panic attacks she now suffers incapacitate her for hours sometimes days at a time and leave her physically and mentally drained.

After one particularly bad episode lands Ella in a psych ward, she discovers her son, Alex, has been taken from her by the state and placed with a foster family. Driven by desperation, Ella kidnaps Alex and flees to the seaside town in northern Denmark where she was born. Her grandmothers abandoned house is in grave disrepair, but she can live there for free until she can figure out how to convince social services that despite everything, she is the best parent for her child.

But being back in the small town forces Ella to confront the demons of her childhood the monsters her memory has tried so hard to obscure. What really happened that night her mother died? Was her grandmother right was Ella's father unjustly convicted? What other secrets were her parents hiding from each other? If Ella can start to remember, maybe her scars will begin to heal or maybe the truth will put her in even greater danger.  

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The opening to this book was a little different to what I was expecting.  Usually you are given an explosive event or shocking revelation, but this opens with a very simple and frank conversation between two neighbours.  Two females.  It is muted, matter of fact and so completely puts you straight into the tone of the book it is very clever.

So, what is the tone of the book?  Well, to be honest, it is pretty bleak.  Written in first person narrative by protagonist Ella, the reader quickly ascertains that Ella and her son Alex live a pretty poor life, both financially and in quality.  Both Ella and Alex suffer from mental health issues, something Ella fights the state about with vengeance.  Ella's general outlook on life and other people is negative, she trusts in very little, but that is hardly surprising given the traumatic and fragmented up bringing she has endured.  When she moves back to where she grew up, she meets people from her past who seem to know more about her than she does; Thomas, her old school friend who obviously hasn't lost the flame he held for her, Baek-Nielson her grandmothers friend, Barbara who swears she will help her no matter how much she protests.  The author presents them well, I was not sure who could be trusted...

Throughout we are taken on Ella's, reluctant, journey of discovery about what really happened in her childhood, particularly the night her mother died.  What I liked was there was no sudden changes in Ella's attitude, she didn't suddenly become an optimistic fighter, or into money.  She is forced to deal with her own past so that it doesn't affect her son's future, but even so, she does it all seriously dragging her feet and with limited means.

In between the current day scenes with Ella, we are taken back to 1994, the year her father allegedly killed her mother.  Told from the viewpoint of both her father, Helgi, and mother, Anna, the reader learns the couple both had secrets and issues over the course of that year.  Using the three viewpoints the plot comes together well and at a steady pace.  Although I did put two and two together, it did not spoil the book for me and I enjoyed the way the author weaved and pulled all the ends together. 

I loved the characters, they were very real and most importantly relevant to the plot.  At first, I did wonder whether some of the language used was a little too much, but actually considering it now, as I review the novel in it's entirety, no it wasn't.  The book is set to the theme of hardship and with that comes gritty realities that sometimes only profanity can truly help describe.  Although some of the characters and language may seem harsh, the overall emotion I got from them was actually compassion, I particularly thought this of Rosa.

What My Body Remembers, for me, was a different kettle of fish to what I was expecting.  It is written through emotion rather than action.  It's themes ran strong and true from beginning right to end and the characters are really well developed and interesting.

What My Body Remembers receives a Very Pink Notebook Rating of :