Saturday, 3 December 2016

Serial Killers: Women who write Crime Fiction

This week there was a fascinating programme looking at the women who write crime fiction. The documentary interviewed some of the most well known female authors in this genre and also included extracts from their books. Having attended the Killer Women Crime Festival in October, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing more about writers in this genre; their influences, what interests them in this genre, how they research their novels and generally more about their books!

Here is a list of some of the authors and titles referred to in the documentary so you can compile your own Serial Killer Women To Be Read list! 

The Original Killer Women

And Then There Were None
First, there were ten - a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they're unwilling to reveal - and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (Ripley, #1)
Since his debut in 1955, Tom Ripley has evolved into the ultimate bad boy sociopath, influencing countless novelists and filmmakers. In this first novel, we are introduced to suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950s. A product of a broken home, branded a "sissy" by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. This fondness turns obsessive when Ripley is sent to Italy to bring back his libertine pal but grows enraged by Dickie's ambivalent feelings for Marge, a charming American dilettante.
Dark Corners
When Carl sells a box of slimming pills to his close friend Stacey, inadvertently causing her death, he sets in train a sequence of catastrophic events which begin with subterfuge, extend to lies, and culminate in murder.
In Rendell’s dark and atmospheric tale of psychological suspense, we encounter mistaken identity, kidnap, blackmail, and a cast of characters who are so real that we come to know them better than we know ourselves.
Infused with her distinctive blend of wry humour, acute observation and deep humanity, this is Rendell at her most memorable and best.

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories
 P. D. James' prose illuminates each of these perfectly formed stories, making them ideal reading for the darkest days of the year. While she delights in the secrets that lurk beneath the surface at family gatherings, her Christmas stories also provide tantalizing puzzles to keep the reader guessing. P. D. James embraces the challenge of the short-story form, and ingeniously weaves the strands of plot, setting, characterisation and surprise to create a satisfying whole within only a few thousand words. From the title story about a strained country-house party on Christmas Eve, to another about an illicit affair that ends in murder, and two cases for James' poet-detective Adam Dalgliesh, each treats the reader to James' masterfully atmospheric storytelling, always with the lure of a mystery to be solved.

Patricia Cornwell's first novel "Postmortem" was written in 1990 and was the first real forensic thriller.  It introduced Dr Kay Scarpetta who works as a medical examiner. Cornwell wrote this first novel while working as a computer analyst at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia. Since it's publication, it has led to an explosion of forensic literature, television and film and Cornwell has gone on to sell over 100 million books and has written over 29 novels in this genre. 

Postmortem (Kay Scarpetta, #1)

Under cover of night in Richmond, Virginia, a human monster strikes, leaving a gruesome trail of stranglings that has paralyzed the city. Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta suspects the worst: a deliberate campaign by a brilliant serial killer whose signature offers precious few clues. With an unerring eye, she calls on the latest advances in forensic research to unmask the madman. But this investigation will test Kay like no other, because it's being sabotaged from within—and someone wants her dead

Best Selling Killer Women

Out of Bounds

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test reveals a connection to an unsolved murder from twenty-two years before. Finding the answer to the cold case should be straightforward. But it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.
Meanwhile, Detective Karen Pirie finds herself irresistibly drawn to another mystery that she has no business investigating, a mystery that has its roots in a terrorist bombing two decades ago. And again, she finds that nothing is as it seems.

Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan, #1)
Her life is devoted to justice; for those she never even knew. In the year since Temperance Brennan left behind a shaky marriage in North Carolina, work has often preempted her weekend plans to explore Quebec. When a female corpse is discovered meticulously dismembered and stashed in trash bags, Temperance detects an alarming pattern and she plunges into a harrowing search for a killer. But her investigation is about to place those closest to her, her best friend and her own daughter in mortal danger...

Waiting for Wednesday (Frieda Klein, #3)

Ruth Lennox, beloved mother of three, is found by her daughter in a pool of her own blood. Who would want to murder an ordinary housewife? And why?
Psychotherapist Frieda Klein finds she has an unusually personal connection with DCI Karlsson's latest case. She is no longer working with him in an official capacity, but when her niece befriends Ruth Lennox's son, Ted, she finds herself in the awkward position of confidante to both Karlsson and Ted.
When it emerges that Ruth was leading a secret life, her family closes ranks and Karlsson finds he needs Frieda's help more than ever before. 
But Frieda is distracted. Having survived an attack on her life, she is struggling to stay in control and when a patient's chance remark rings an alarm bell, she finds herself on a path that seems to lead to a serial killer who has long escaped detection. Or is it merely a symptom of her own increasingly fragile mind?
Because, as Frieda knows, every step closer to a killer is one more step into a darkness from which there may be no return...

The Take
Freddie Jackson thinks he owns the underworld when he gets out of prison. He's done his time, made the right connections, and now he's ready to use them. His wife Jackie just wants her husband home, but she's forgotten the rows, the violence, and the girls Freddie can't leave alone. Bitter, resentful, and increasingly unstable, Jackie watches her life crumble while her little sister Maggie's star rises. In love with Freddie's cousin Jimmy, Maggie is determined not to end up like her sister.
Families should stick together, but behind closed doors, jealousy and betrayal can fester until everyone's life is infected. And for the Jacksons, loyalty cannot win out. Because in their world you can trust no one. In their world everyone is on the take.

Killer Woman of the Moment 

The Girl on the Train
Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.
Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.
Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

Other Recent Killer Women Phenomenons

Gone Girl

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Before I Go to Sleep

As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child, thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me... 
Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love--all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. 
Welcome to Christine's life.

So the programme has helped add a few more titles to my TBR pile, reminded me of a few authors that I have enjoyed and a few books I might revisit. Most importantly it seems that Killer Women are here to stay; with their killer instinct for what women want to read about and their skill in writing about the anguish, darkness and complexity of a serial killer's mind, their books are going to top the charts for as long as we are interested in the human mind.  

If you can, I would highly recommend you try and catch the programme on iPlayer as listening to the authors chat about their work and the discussion about the appeal of crime fiction is very interesting and engaging. 

I just wouldn't want to cross any of them - or want to meet them in a dark alley! 

For my reviews of the Killer Women Crime Festival in October 2016, please click below:
For more recommendations and reviews you can follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 

For more Killer Women Crime Festival chat follow @killerwomenorg 

You may also like to follow these crime obsessed tweeters.....
@KillerReads @CrimeFix @nholten40 (crimebookjunkie) @TheCrimeVault @sbairden @CrimeFest

I know that by no means covers the list of excellent bloggers out there - not to mention the hundreds who blog about all kind of fiction but focus largely on psychological thrillers........If I could list you all, I would! 

Friday, 2 December 2016

**AUTHOR Q&A** Helen Cox "Starlight Diner" series

Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner: A sharply funny read featuring suspicion, seduction and shockwavesMilkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner(The Starlight Diner Series #1)

Today I have the absolute honour of welcoming author Helen Cox to my blog. Confession: I have rather fallen in love with the world of the Starlight Diner. Helen Cox's world is colourful, bright, fun and full of songs to which you know all the lyrics and sing them from the top of your voice while going about your daily chores!  So refill your coffee, help yourself to another spoonful of ice-cream, set the iPod to Kylie and read on to hear all about Helen, maple syrup buttermilk pancakes, travelling the A19 of life and hot dates with Captain America.......

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to becoming a published writer?

Well sure… but I’m not a woman who is easily synopsized. I might be better off writing the blurb for what’s underneath my little blonde cover. Blurbs are supposed to be all the most appealing parts, right? So if I do that, people will never know that I have, in an “emergency”, been known to eat cheesecake with my bare hands…

Alright, here are the key facts: though my topsy-turvy life takes me all over, I’m a Yorkshire lass at heart. The first record I ever bought was a 45 of I Should Be So Lucky by Kylie Minogue. I learnt most of my lessons about love from summer reruns of Saved by the Bell and, though not one to hold grudges, I’m still a little bit annoyed at my mother for making me miss an episode of Press Gang in 1989 for a dental appointment.

It’s true that some scars never heal. 

When it comes to writing, it’s something that is in my blood. I’ve always written, since I could hold a pen in an upright position. I’ve been putting pen to paper ‘professionally’ for about a decade (if anyone out there understands the true definition of writing ‘professionally’ do drop me a line and explain it to me). During that time I specialized in film journalism, founded my own film magazine and wrote a few non-fiction books. Then one night, out of nowhere, I started writing a novel and by some miracle it was picked up by a publisher. I think because it’s the first novel I’ve ever written some people have viewed my publishing contract as an ‘overnight success’ of sorts but it’s been a life-long journey to get to this stage and I actually don’t believe that ‘overnight success’ even exists. In any pursuit there are many miles to travel and often what you first thought of as the “destination” just turns out to be a petrol station (sometimes with an attached Little Chef) on the A19 of life.

You often publish short stories, extracts, character snippets or back stories as spin offs from "Milkshakes and Heartbreak at the Starlight Diner" Is "Milkshakes...." more than just a book?

Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner started off as a word document I saved to my desktop as ‘Waitress Story’ and I thought I’d never come back to it. In the immortal words of Jake Houseman (Baby’s father from Dirty Dancing): “when I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.”

The world of the Starlight Diner is very real to me. The characters are familiar; all family. I guess a lot of them are splinters of who I am. Many of the feelings Esther felt in the first book, I’ve been through. And I’ve had times in my life when I’ve been as wise as Mona; as reckless as Jimmy; as cynical as Bernie and as fun-loving as Lucia. And I imagine many other people can relate to those feelings just as well as I can. When I wrote the first Starlight Diner book, I created my own little universe where I live whenever I write about it, and I guess it’s not too surprising that a person like me, who has never really settled in one place for that long, has created this space in which absolutely anyone can find a home.

The details about the diner are very vivid and the location is very specific in the novel. What is the inspiration behind the story? Is it based on a real place?

The Starlight Diner is an amalgamation of features from different diners across New York City with some imaginative details woven in. I went on a little tour of them while I was writing the book, for serious research purposes you understand, and spent a lot of time observing the surroundings and the happenings of different eateries around Manhattan. I may also have devoured a substantial amount of New York Cheesecake but exact figures are unconfirmed. Though the Starlight Diner is fictional, I first had the idea for setting a story in a diner when I visited The Remedy Diner on East Houston Street. It’s just a few blocks away from where my fictional diner would stand if it was real-life bricks and mortar.

Have you ever lived in New York? Did you need to do much research for the authenticity of the novel?

Sadly I’ve never lived in New York City… yet. I get the feeling that at some point in my life I will. I don’t know where that feeling comes from. It’s just a place I’m drawn to; a place that never ceases to inspire me. And in the fantastical mind of a writer trifling issues such as ‘how will I get a visa?’ or ‘how will I earn money there?’ don’t carry much weight.

I have spent a good chunk of time in New York City however. About three months or so over the last decade. I’ve also read both fiction and non-fiction works by other authors to better understand the different facets of the city; spent a lot of time looking at old maps of Manhattan and conducted interviews with people who live in New York to try and get under its skin.

Do you ever 'fantasy cast' for a film adaptation? Who would you love to see play the lead roles of Esther and Mona?

Hah. I never let my delusions of grandeur quite reach that altitude but if I HAD to pick an actress for the role of Esther I’d probably pray that either Rosamund Pike or Emily Blunt would read the script and say ‘yes’. I will watch both of these actresses in any movie, knowing that they’re always going to astonish me. As for Mona, casting Gabrielle Union could be a lot of fun due to the fact that she’s an actress generally associated with the 90s – when the Starlight Diner books are set.  Or Leslie Jones. I really enjoyed her stint in the new Ghostbusters film and she’s definitely as quick-tongued as Mona.

If you were in a diner, which fictional character would you most like to be served by? 

It would have to be Amelie Poulain. She’s the most adorable fictional waitress in history. We both have incredibly vivid imaginations so I think we would get on a treat. Plus, I got a B at GCSE French so I’d understand at least two thirds of everything she said to me.

Which fictional character would you most like to take on a date  / out for lunch at the diner? What food would you order?

OK, to be honest… I’d really quite like to go on a date with Captain America. I’m a little bit obsessed with the USA obviously, so the charm of an American accent is not lost on me. Due to the fact he was frozen in the forties and revived in the 21st Century he’s got a bit of an old-fashioned heart like me. He’s a super-hero so you’d be totally safe in his company and, I’m not sure if anyone else caught this, but in the latest movie he stopped a helicopter flying away by holding onto it with his bare hands. As a result I would like to make out with him. On his face.

Not that I’ve in any way over-thought this question / fantasized about taking Cappy out for lunch on a regular basis.

What would I order? Buttermilk pancakes. Always. With maple syrup aplenty.

What tracks would you have to put on the Jukebox if you were in a diner?

If we’re talking about 1950s tracks I’d choose something at the later end of the decade with an iconic riff like Summertime Blues by Eddie Cochran. In terms of 1960s tracks it’s difficult to beat some of the classic soul tunes from that era. Something like You Keep Me Hangin’ On by The Supremes starts playing and it’s impossible not to move your body and sing (or shout) along. My musical tastes are insanely eclectic but our Dad pretty much raised me on tunes from that period, so they hold a special place in my heart.

The novel talks about 'running away from ghosts' and trying to escape your past. Have you ever had any kind of experience yourself of trying to run away from something? Have you ever tried to 'recreate' yourself somewhere new?

Sure, there have been difficult things in my life that I’ve tried to distance myself from. Painful experiences. Heartbreaks that have shunted me into fresh starts. If I’ve given a particular relationship or situation everything I can give it and things aren’t working out, I’ve never been afraid to walk away and seek my own path.

Of course, this hasn’t led to the most settled of existences so in some respects, I guess I feel like I’ve spent my whole life ‘on the run’.  Not per se running away from things but searching for my place in the world.

The closest I ever came to replicating what Esther did in my story was when at the age of twenty-five I moved from York to London. I left my job as a waitress for an offer of writing copy for an advertising company. I gave up my flat. Broke up with my boyfriend, and rented a room (which I temporarily shared with a rat) just off Tottenham Court Road. I was far away from all my family and most of my friends. It was a pretty scary thing to do and certainly there were lots of lonely nights and weekends before I got to know anybody in the city.

I’ll admit it felt like an opportunity to ‘recreate’ myself. I came from a modest background and hadn’t always been able to afford the clothes and haircuts and beauty products that so many people are prone to using to project a certain image. But nobody who lived in London knew I hadn’t had two coins to rub together my whole life. So I have had that experience of trying to become somebody else in a new place. Can’t say it stuck. Turns out, in the end, we just are who we are. And, we’re much happier when we’re being true to who we are and what we want deep down.

Book Two - "Secrets & Fries at The Starlight Diner"- is coming out in on the 16th Dec 2016 and you obviously always planned this second instalment to follow on from "Milkshakes...". Have you anymore planned in the series? 

I am soon to start writing a third Starlight Diner book to complete the character arc for the diner owner, Bernie. He’s never been the focus of the main stories but in the background he is on his own journey too and I’d like to put the final story in place to complete that. Whether or not that will be published traditionally or whether it will be self-published I don’t know at present, but I’m excited to write it and hang out with my characters again.

In the new book, do we still see Esther, Mona and Walt? 

Esther, Mona and Walt all feature in the second book. Esther is less-involved in the third story as it is set a couple of years after the second book. I think it’s important to hold onto those characters as they, and the love they show towards each other, are really the lifeblood of the stories and it’s that which keeps the narrative thumping along.

If you had to sum your book up in one line, what would it be? What's the one line sales pitch?!

Being concise isn’t entirely my specialty but I’ll go with:

Esther’s about to start a new life in the land of the free. But what good is a life you’re too afraid to live?

Thank you so much Helen - you've been a brilliant guest and brought a lot of sunshine to my Saturday morning with your answers! It's been so great to meet you and hear all about your writing world! 

I'm off to finish "Secret and Fries" as quickly as I can ......! Good luck with its publication - and just to say, it's currently on Amazon at the preorder price of  £1.99!

Here's some more about Helen and The Starlight Diner:

Helen Coxme-secrets-small

Helen Cox is a book-devouring, photo-taking, film-obsessed novelist. If forced to choose one, Helen’s Mastermind specialism would be Grease 2. To this day, she still adheres to the Pink Lady pledge and when somebody asks her if she is a god she says ‘yes.’

After completing her MA in creative writing at the University of York St. John Helen found work writing for a range of magazines, websites and blogs as well as writing news and features for TV and radio. She has written three non-fiction books and founded independent film publication: New Empress Magazine. She currently lives in York and writes novels.

More information about Helen can be found on her website: She can be found on Twitter: @Helenography.

"Milkshakes & Heartbreak at the Starlight Diner"

Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner(The Starlight Diner Series #1)
Next time you’re in New York, take a turn off Broadway onto East Houston Street. There, you’ll see it: The Starlight Diner. A retro eatery curious enough to delight tourists and locals alike. Fifties tunes stream out of the jukebox long into the night, and it serves the tastiest milkshakes in the five boroughs.

Esther Knight waitresses at The Starlight Diner. She’s sharp, sarcastic, and she’s hiding something. Nobody at the diner knows why she left London for New York – or why she repeatedly resists the charms of their newest regular, actor Jack Faber.

Esther is desperate to start a new life in the land of the free, but despite the warm welcome from the close-knit diner crowd, something from her past is holding her back. 
Can she ever learn to love and live again?

Read my review here:

"Secrets & Fries at the Starlight Diner" 

Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner: A sharply funny read featuring suspicion, seduction and shockwaves
What brings Bonnie Brooks to The Starlight Diner? And why is she on the run?
As the front-woman in a band, Bonnie is used to being in the spotlight, but now she must hide in the shadows.
Bonnie only has one person who she can turn to: her friend Esther Knight, who waitresses at the Fifties-themed diner. There, retro songs play on the jukebox as fries and sundaes are served to satisfied customers. But where has Esther gone?
Alone in New York City, Bonnie breaks down in front of arrogant news reporter, and diner regular, Jimmy Boyle. Jimmy offers to help her. Can she trust him?
When the kindly owner of the Starlight Diner offers Bonnie work, and she meets charming security officer Nick Moloney, she dares to hope that her luck has changed. Is there a blossoming romance on the cards? And can Bonnie rebuild her life with the help of her Starlight Diner friends?
For more from me, you can find me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)

"The Night Rainbow" by Claire King

The Night Rainbow

Before I start I have to say that I don't think I can do justice to this book. My language feels distinctly inadequate, limited and repetitive after having read such a well crafted, exquisite story. So I apologise in advance -perhaps I should just say that I've given it 5 stars instead of bumble through a review!

"At once moving and gripping, elegant and spare, The Night Rainbow is a daring novel about a child faced with the baffling world of adult grief. Claire King nails the voice of the child narrator from the first page; Pea is a heroine you won't forget." Maggie O'Farrell

As O'Farrell says, I too will not forget Pea, the main protagonist in this stunning debut. She is a heroine - a delightful girl who has the heart of an angel and the kindness of a fairy. Her voice is immediately compelling and I was transfixed from the opening page. Although only 5, her voice is endearing, yet fresh, and sometimes so starkly insightful it brings a lump to your throat.

"Margot is like me and she is not like me. I am 5 and a half. Margot is only 4 but she's tall for her age. We both like cuddles and insects and cuddling insects and we both have freckles and green eyes, like Maman, with sparkles of blue and brown. In the sunlight Maman's eyes are kaleidoscopes. Margot and I are the same and not the same, you can tell by our dreams. I am always dreaming about witches chasing me, or picnic days at the beach before all the dying happened - these are the best ones. Margot dreams more about the tiny people that live in the cupboards and have parties on Thursdays, and about jigsaws that make themselves."

"Jigsaws that make themselves" - I love that. So simple, yet so profound. A child's voice but a image that is laden with deeper meaning. This sums up Pea. Pea whose father has died in an accident, whose mother is grieving the recent loss of baby and now, heavily pregnant has neither the physical energy nor the emotional strength to look after Pea and Margot. The girls are left to play in the meadows surrounding their home, inventing games and setting themselves the daily challenge of trying to make their Maman happy again. Their life is a jigsaw of grief, loss, responsibility and worry which Pea and Margot try to put together again with their imaginary adventures.

But despite a life of such a broken jigsaw with missing pieces, this is not a depressing read at all. Pea's voice is strong and her observations of the world around her capture her sense of bemusement, delight and discovery. We are gently immersed back into the world of a young child and invited to see the world from her perspective. King captures the voice of a 5 year old effortlessly. I was convinced from the start.

"That [father's death] was tragic, the priest at the church said so, but afterwards it was a catastrophe."

King has taken a few liberties with the voice but only to enhance the readability of the book. She ensures there are enough nuance and flourishes to remind us that this is a very young child. The conviction of Pea's voice comes from her innocence, naivety, Pea and Margot's struggle to understand the sometimes baffling behaviour of the adults and the lovely way in which a child can observe things yet completely miss their significance.

The girls' quest to find happiness is heartwarming. They want to fix things and their innovative and imaginative attempts to do so are charming and delightful to watch. They use their "cleverness" again and again and the reader cannot help but fall in love with them and will them to succeed.

King also uses metaphors throughout the poetic prose. Her imagery is stunning and there is a real sensory overload throughout the whole book. I was there. I was in France, in the summer, in the sticky heat, in the meadows and in the market place. Every sight, smell, touch or taste is captured and used to enhance the characters, the action and the plot. King also uses the imagery of nests, birds and flight which actually carry much more deeper, hidden meanings as the novel unfolds.

"the summer babies [birds], all thin and wobbly and not as polished as the grown ups. The mother bird...keeps leaving the wire and flies in big circles.....Come on, I think she is saying, flying is easy. But her children edge from side to side on the wire, cocking their heads and looking nervous.......She doesn't [put food into their mouths] anymore. They have to do it for themselves."

The descriptions are perfectly beautiful. Pea's candid and spontaneous descriptions are incredibly effective.

"Maman sits on the sofa, with her feet up on a stool and her plate balanced on top of her belly like a hat. I sit before her, just the tiniest amount of cool space between our warmnesses. It feels like nothing and everything."

"I don't even remember the last time she kissed me, because I never knew I had to."

And then there is the lovely humour which delicately lifts the book and levels any oppression from the enormity of what Pea and Margot are actually handling. For example when a neighbour calls around, Pea and Margot lean out precariously from an upstairs window reasoning:

"Firstly Maman seems really angry and it will be better if we are not there to get under her feet when she has finished her argument and secondly because if we lean out of the window we can see better."

I loved the dialogue and relationship between Margot and Pea. I find myself unable to think of any adjectives that would really do it justice or explain how well captured the dynamics are. They are so absorbed in their world, share so much, teach each other so much and the lovely attempts at assertion and superiority as they jostle against each other to prove their cleverness or competence are delightful, charming and heartwarming. Again, these keeps the tone light and gentle.

Another image that repeats throughout the novel is that of fairy tales, fairies and witches. Josette's house is described as a cottage made of bonbons and cakes and I think the allusion to fairy tales is quite deliberate. We are after all seeing the world through the eyes of a 5 year old and we are also being lulled into a world where reality and unreality become blurred, where we are encouraged - just like Pea and Margot - to make sense of what we are told through stories and made up games.

I really enjoyed the passage at Josette's house where she cuts Pea's hair by placing a bowl on her head.

"Is she going to make you into a salad? says Margot. Or a cake make of hair?"

The repetition of witches and Pea's fear of them reinforces King's exploration of dreams and happy endings. Pea can't articulate what it is she is scared of, she can't verbalise what her pain is or explain it and so she can't acknowledge it. The reader has to read between the lines, between the description, motifs and metaphors and begin to piece together the jigsaw themselves.

At some point I realised just how magnificent King's writing was and just what depth was disguised within the prose. And then towards the end of the novel there is a slight dramatic increase in pace, action and tension. When I finished the book I felt bereft but I also wanted to turn back to the beginning and read it again knowing what I had now learnt about the characters. I think reading it again would bring as much pleasure as the first time and even more appreciation for King's exquisite writing.

This is a story that will overwhelm you with the scent and heat of a summer in France, which will tickle you with the wings of a fairy and entertain you with the escapades of two young girls. It will also encourage you to see the world through new eyes - eyes which at times see things with more perception, frankness and profundity than any adult, while also not seeing the threats, dangers and complexity of what is happening around them.

Not since "Finding Martha Lost" or "The Museum of You" have I fallen in love with such a character like Pea. King's writing reminded me of Carys Bray, Joanna Harris and Jo Baker. Anyone who loves a well crafted, beautifully written tale that is about characters will love this. It's as uneventful as a remote french village highstreet but as colourful as the wild flowers in the meadow, slow like a siesta but as lush and juicy as the ripest peach.

It's a story about the blessings and perils of imagination and truth. It's about innocence, friendship, trust and love. There is grief, there is compassion. I just loved it. A stunning 5* read from me.

"The Night Rainbow" published in 2013.

I can't believe this is King's first novel. Her second "Everything Love Is" published in July 2016 and is equally poetic, lyrical and captivating. I highly recommend you take a look at it too. Here's the link to my review:

For more recommendations, review and bookish chat you can follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)

Thursday, 1 December 2016

All I Want For Christmas.....

All I want for Christmas is a good book - and some time to spend reading it!

So here's a list of books which I think would be perfect to feast on over Christmas - hopefully something to suit everyone's stocking and not cause too much indigestion!

The Snow Child
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Set in Alaska in 1920 this is an absolutely beautiful story, written in equally beautiful and mesmerising prose. Jack and Mabel are setting up their homestead in the brutal, isolating, wild countryside of Alaska; struggling to cope with the work of the farm and the loneliness of living in such a hostile location. One night they build a snow child and from this moment things change. The Snow Child disappears, but in it's place appears Faina, a young girl who they come to love as their own daughter. Yet as they begin to learn more about her, Faina's presence begins to change Jack and Mabel. Ivey's evocation of human nature, love, despair, hardship and the incredible setting are powerful. The characterisation is equally compelling. There is just enough sprinkling of magic and fairy tales to make it a unique and captivating read, which I gave 5* and always recommend!

A Week in December
A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks

Following the success of "Birdsong", "Charlotte Grey" and his incredible 790 page "Human Traces", Faulks has become a highly acclaimed and hugely successful author. This book is set in contemporary London and although published in 2009, deals with concerns which are very relevant within our society today. This will be a rewarding and thought provoking read for fans of literary fiction.

London, the week before Christmas, 2007. Over seven days we follow the lives of seven major characters: a hedge fund manager trying to bring off the biggest trade of his career; a professional footballer recently arrived from Poland; a young lawyer with little work and too much time to speculate; a student who has been led astray by Islamist theory; a hack book-reviewer; a schoolboy hooked on skunk and reality TV; and a Tube train driver whose Circle Line train joins these and countless other lives together in a daily loop.

With daring skill, the novel pieces together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life. Greed, the dehumanising effects of the electronic age and the fragmentation of society are some of the themes dealt with in this savagely humorous book. The writing on the wall appears in letters ten feet high, but the characters refuse to see it — and party on as though tomorrow is a dream.

Sebastian Faulks probes not only the self-deceptions of this intensely realised group of people, but their hopes and loves as well. As the novel moves to its gripping climax, they are forced, one by one, to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit.

The Ice TwinsThe Fire Child

I love these books. They are atmospheric, eerie, chilling and full of suspense. A perfect blend of gothic, ghost and psychological thriller writing. I rated both 5*. "The Ice Twins" is set on a tiny Scottish island and the description of the sea, the landscape and the freezing weather is immensely atmospheric. "The Fire Child" is set in Cornwall - equally rugged, dark and gothic, with the chapter headings as a countdown to Christmas day as events begin to spiral out of control. A real treat!

The Ice Twins by S K Tremayne
A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity—that she, in fact, is Lydia—their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past—what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

The Fire Child by S K Tremayne
When Rachel marries dark, handsome David, everything seems to fall into place. Swept from single life in London to the beautiful Carnhallow House in Cornwall, she gains wealth, love, and an affectionate stepson, Jamie.

But then Jamie’s behaviour changes, and Rachel’s perfect life begins to unravel. He makes disturbing predictions, claiming to be haunted by the spectre of his late mother – David’s previous wife. Is this Jamie’s way of punishing Rachel, or is he far more traumatized than she thought?

As Rachel starts digging into the past, she begins to grow suspicious of her husband. Why is he so reluctant to discuss Jamie’s outbursts? And what exactly happened to cause his ex-wife’s untimely death, less than two years ago? As summer slips away and December looms, Rachel begins to fear there might be truth in Jamie’s words:

‘You will be dead by Christmas.’

A Place Called Winter
A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

In the golden 1900s, Harry Cane, a shy, eligible gentleman of leisure is drawn from a life of quiet routine into courting and marrying Winnie, eldest daughter of the fatherless Wells clan, who are not quite as respectable as they would appear. They settle by the sea and have a daughter and conventional marriage does not seem such a tumultuous change after all. When a chance encounter awakens scandalous desires never acknowledged until now, however, Harry is forced to forsake the land and people he loves for a harsh new life as a homesteader on the newly colonized Canadian prairies. There, in a place called Winter, he will come to find a deep love within an alternative family, a love imperiled by war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism.

So this is more tenuous as Christmas read - in fact it isn't really about Christmas, just features a town called Winter. But it would be a great book to spend the holidays reading - a book to read when you have time to fully immerse yourself in Harry's world and time to process the prose as well as the story line and characters. As with all Gale's books, it is emotive, heart rendering, poignant and unforgettable. Set in the 1900s, it explores the social history of this time including attitudes to marriage, madness, grief and love. It is beautifully written, absorbing and a book to truly immerse yourself in. A 5* rating from me.

The Quality of Silence
The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

On 24th November Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrived in Alaska.

Within hours they were driving alone across a frozen wilderness

Where nothing grows

Where no one lives

Where tears freeze 

And night will last for another 54 days.

They are looking for Ruby's father.

Travelling deeper into a silent land.

They still cannot find him.

And someone is watching them in the dark.

I've included this book because it is set in Alaska. The description of the desolation, the snow, the ice, the cold and the sheer brutal conditions is very well evoked and adds incredible tension to the story line. This is quite an easy read and I read this as part of my book group early this year. It's a satisfying page turner. 

A Year and a Day
"A Year and a Day" by Isabelle Broom

For Megan, a winter escape to Prague with her friend Ollie is a chance to find some inspiration for her upcoming photography exhibition. But she's determined to keep their friendship from becoming anything more. Because if Megan lets Ollie find out about her past, she risks losing everything - and she won't let that happen again . . .

For Hope, the trip is a surprise treat from Charlie, her new partner. But she's struggling to enjoy the beauty of the city when she knows how angry her daughter is back home. And that it's all her fault . . .

For Sophie, the city has always been a magical place. This time she can't stop counting down the moments until her boyfriend Robin joins her. But in historic Prague you can never escape the past . . .

This is for people looking for a much lighter read, for a story with more heartwarming moments than spine chilling ones and for those who love a good bit of romance and intertwining story lines. It's set in Prague and the descriptions of the city steal the show. It's a great read, a perfect winter holiday read; enjoyable with a good blend of emotion, drama, happiness and humour.

And here's a few more ideas.....

Classic Christmas reads:

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings (includes appendices, essays, prefaces)Christmas at Cold Comfort FarmThe Christmas MysteryThe Mistletoe Murder and Other StoriesThe Woman in Black: A Ghost Story

Popular Christmas reads:
Christmas at the Cupcake Café (At the Cupcake Café, #2)Calling Mrs ChristmasJust for ChristmasMeet Me Under the MistletoeKiss Me Under the Mistletoe

What will you be asking for this Christmas? What's your all time favourite Christmas novel and what book would you like to find in your stocking on the 25th of December this year? Let me know in the comments below!

If you'd like to follow me on Twitter you can find me at @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) for more recommendations, reviews and bookish chat.