Dot Scribbles

3.9.15

BLOG TOUR: The Girl Who Broke the Rules by Marnie Riches

When the mutilated bodies of two sex-workers are found in Amsterdam, Chief Inspector, van den Bergen must find a brutal murderer before the red-light district erupts into panic.
Georgina McKenzie is conducting research into pornography among the UK's most violent sex offenders but once van den Bergen calls on her criminology expertise, she is only too happy to come running.
The rising death toll forces George and van den Bergen to navigate the labyrinth worlds of Soho strip-club sleaze and trans-national human trafficking. And with the case growing ever more complicated, George must walk the halls of Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, seeking advice from the brilliant serial murderer, Dr Silas Holm.

Publisher: Maze
Pages: 391

Marnie Riches is officially my Queen of 'Euro Crime'. I thought that her first book, The Girl Who Wouldn't Die was fantastic but The Girl Who Broke the Rules is even better.
We are back with Georgina McKenzie again, she is in Cambridge studying for her PhD, she is researching pornography amongst violent sex offenders. Georgina is still in touch with van den Bergen and it is he who calls her back to Amsterdam as he needs her help. The bodies of two sex-workers have been found, their remains are testament to a brutal death and van den Bergen knows he is looking for a dangerous, twisted murderer.
Once again Marnie Riches drops you right into the thick of the action from the very first page. Her story-telling is gritty, exciting and enthralling. The murders are gruesome and the author does not shy away from the details.
The dynamic between Georgina and van den Bergen is explored more in this book, Riches builds the tension beautifully and I was just screaming at them to give into each other and their true feelings.
As with Riches' first book, the pace is fast and there are so many twists and turns; you have to keep your wits about you. There are quite a few characters in this book and at first I couldn't see how they were connected but Marnie Riches subtly brings them together and ties up all of the loose ends.
I felt that we got to know individual members of van den Bergen's team which was very interesting to see how they worked together and who the detective felt he could trust within his team.
The Girl Who Broke the Rules kept me up very late, I got to the end of each chapter and just wanted more. Marnie Riches has created a fantastic series of books and it will be interesting to see what is in store for these characters next.

Many thanks for being involved in this blog tour, please check out the blog poster on my side-bar to find out where you can go next!  

24.8.15

BOOK REVIEW: Harm by Hugh Fraser

Acapulco 1974: Rina Walker is on assignment. Just another quick, clean kill.
She wakes to find her employer's severed head on her bedside table. As she tries to escape, she is captured by a Mexican drug dealer who needs her radiant beauty and ruthless expertise to eliminate an inconvenient member of government.
'Why would an innocent girl become a contract killer?'
Notting Hill 1956: Fifteen-year old Rina is scavenging and stealing to support her siblings and dysfunctional mother, when a local gangster attacks her younger sister, Rina wreaks revenge and kills him.
Innocence betrayed, Rina faces the brutality of the post-war London underworld- a world that teaches her the skill to kill...

Publisher: Armstrong Nyman
Pages: 292

Hugh Fraser, who is probably best known as playing Captain Hastings in Poirot, was talking about his debut novel, Harm on Twitter. I very much liked the sound of it plus I am a big Poirot fan so I asked for a review copy and I am so glad I did as it is a fantastic read.
The action starts immediately in Acapulco in 1974 as we meet Rina for the first time, she is there on an assignment from her employer Martin; seven pages into the book we are confronted with this line:
'Martin's severed head is staring at me from the bedside table.'
After reading that I knew that I was in for a treat. The action just escalates after this event as Rina is captured by a Mexican drug dealer who has a new assignment for her. What follows is a gripping tale of cat and mouse, you are never too sure who Rina can trust, if anyone and whether she will make it out of Mexico alive,
The book goes back and forth between Mexico in 1974 and Notting Hill in 1956 where we see Rina growing up and gain some perspective on why her life has taken such a dangerous turn. I enjoyed both aspects of the book  but the parts set in 1956 were my favourite. It was so gritty and realistic, I would love it if Hugh Fraser wrote a prequel about Rina's childhood as there is so much to explore there.
Rina Walker is a brilliant creation, she is both feisty and vulnerable which makes her so interesting to read about. Her childhood was quite simply awful and her desperation to get a better life for herself and her siblings is clear to see and completely understandable.
I felt that Hugh Fraser got the balance just right, the action in the story is perfectly mirrored by emotion and depth. The pace of the book is great, I constantly wanted more of the story from Rina's present and past.
I really do hope that Harm by Hugh Fraser gets the attention that it deserves. It is a gripping, action-packed, well-thought out debut novel and I will be so pleased if author has more stories to share.

Many thanks to Hugh Fraser for sending me a copy of this book to review, Harm is available now. 

17.8.15

BOOK REVIEW: The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara

The blossom is out in the little Cornish harbour town of St Felix.
But Poppy Carmichael's spirits aren't lifted by the pretty west country spring. Inheriting her grandmother's flower shop has forced her to return to Cornwall, a place that holds too many memories.
Poppy is determined to do her best for the sake of her adored grandmother, but she struggles with the responsibility of the more shabby-than-chic shop. And with the added complication of Jake, the gruff but gorgeous local flower grower, Poppy is very tempted to run away...
The pretty little town has a few surprises in store for Poppy. With new friends to help her and romance blooming, it's time for Poppy to open her heart to St. Felix and to the special magic of a little flower shop by the sea!

Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 391

This book is just lovely! One of those books that feels like a lovely, warm hug from your best friend.
Poppy Carmichael is back in the beautiful west country village of St. Felix; a place she has not visited for many years as her memories were too upsetting. However, she has no choice but to return when her grandmother leaves her The Daisy Chain, her precious flower shop which has a very special place in the hearts of the St. Felix residents. Poppy has run away from responsibility her whole adult life but she is determined to make her grandmother proud. Whilst she faces up to the past, she becomes very involved in town life  and the people welcome her with open arms. Jake, the local flower grower is particularly friendly but Poppy is unsure if she will ever be able to let enough of her barriers down in order to let anybody in.
Ali McNamara is a fantastic author and I think that The Little Flower Shop by the Sea is my favourite book of hers. I loved the setting, the characters (animal and human) the story-line, dialogue, I could go on and on. As you can tell I would highly recommend this book, it is spot on for this time of year and beautifully written.

Many thanks to the Sphere for sending me a review copy, the book is out now!

14.8.15

BLOG TOUR: The New Woman by Charity Norman

I am very excited to welcome Charity Norman to my blog today. I am a huge fan of her books, she is not afraid to tackle difficult issues and she does so with great care and empathy. I think Charity's latest book, The New Woman is her best yet and I was lucky enough to be able to ask her some questions about the writing process involved: 

1.     Where did the idea for The New Woman come from?
I was volunteering on a telephone crisis line and a number of our callers were transgender. I spoke to some really amazing people who’d been through terrible times. It struck me just how common this is, and how misunderstood. Then I became friends with a transgender woman who I find inspirational, and her insights helped me to glimpse what she and others had been through. The more I learned, the more I felt this had to be my next book.

2. The book is clearly well researched, how did you go about it?
This did take a lot of detailed research – it’s complex subject and I really had to try and get it right. I talked to transgender people and their families and friends. I read books, articles and blogs; I watched videos and visited forums, followed relevant sites on social media, and was kept up to date with stories: some tragic, some uplifting. I thought I had some knowledge before I began, but it wasn’t until the research was underway that I really began to understand Luke’s despair, and the immensity of the choice he faces. I had to be careful not to dump all of that research into the novel – most of it went unused.


3. The Livingstone family is torn apart by Luke's revelation, did you have a clear idea about their reactions or did they develop and change as you were writing the book?
I had some idea how each might react, but writing character is quite a fluid thing – they don’t always react as you expect, and sometimes they aren’t the people you thought they were. It’s very like getting to know a person in real life. They have complexities and hang-ups that don’t emerge until they’re faced with difficult situations.


4. Are you working on a new book? Can you tell us anything about it?

Oh yes; the first draft is almost finished. It’s set in New Zealand, and is about a young English backpacker who gets herself tangled up in a cult. The research has been chilling but fascinating. You wouldn’t believe what’s out there! It’s my latest obsession.  

Thank you so much to Charity for answering my questions, I have popped my review of The New Woman below, it is out now so go and get your copy!  

What would you do if you found out that your husband, your father, your son- was not who you thought? Could you ever love him again?
Luke Livingstone is a lucky man. He's a respected solicitor, a father and a grandfather, a pillar of the community. He has a loving wife and an idyllic home in the Oxfordshire countryside. Yet Luke is struggling with an unbearable secret, and it's threatening to destroy him.
All his life, Luke has hidden the truth about himself and his identity. It's a truth so fundamental that it will devastate his wife, shatter his children, rock his community and leave him outcast. But Luke has nowhere left to run, and to continue living, he must become the person- the woman- he knows himself to be, whatever the cost. 

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 374

I have read all of Charity Norman's books and I didn't think she could get any better but The New Woman is her best yet.
Luke Livingstone has been living a lie his whole life; his children are grown up and he is now a grandfather, it's time he told the truth. But the truth will devastate his wife Eilish and Children Simon and Kate. Yet he is prepared to tear his family apart in order to live the rest of his life as a woman. Ever since he can remember he has thought of himself as a female but he has tried to hide the truth. He truly loves his wife and children but will they ever be able to forgive him?
This book was outstanding; I felt like I was constantly in awe of how well Charity Norman handled such a complex and sensitive subject. Each chapter is told from either Luke, Eilish's, Kate or Simon's perspective which was brilliant as we got a complete picture of the turmoil this family goes through. Luke and Eilish were my favourite characters; despite Luke's lie they had been happily married and in love. Luke's revelation shatters Eilish but she can't stop loving her husband and we follow her as she comes to terms with what it means for her marriage and family. 
As with all of this author's books, the research undertaken shines through. This all makes the story so much more believable and I also felt as though I learnt a lot about a subject I hadn't really thought about. 
Charity Norman is so, so good at taking a normal, identifiable domestic situation and blowing it apart. Her books always make me think about how I would react in the same situation. She makes you think deeply about family, relationships and love. Her characters are always pushed to their limits with varying results. 
Charity Norman is a fantastic author and I highly recommend The New Woman, it is such a good read and one that will give you plenty to think about. 

13.8.15

BOOK REVIEW: The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan

There are many reasons to bake: to feed; to create; to impress; to nourish; to define ourselves; and sometimes, it has to be said, to perfect. But often we bake to fulfil a hunger that would be better filled by a simple gesture from a dear one. We bake to love and be loved.
In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes.
Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the new Mrs Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest, now her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter, Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death, Vicki who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her facade shouldn't slip.
As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestant's problems. For they will learn- as Mrs Eaden did before them- that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life. 

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 417

The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan is such a good book! With The Great British Bake Off on our TVs again, the publication of the paperback version today is perfectly timed,
The book follows five amateur bakers, Jenny, Mike, Karen, Vicki and Claire as they compete in a competition to become the new Mrs Eaden. Kathleen Eaden, a famous cookery writer published The Art of Baking which became a classic (think Mary Berry or Delia Smith) All five contestants hold Mrs Eaden in high regard so the competition is high.
Each competitor has their own back story plus the book goes back in time to show Kathleen Eaden's life when she was writing her famous book. So there is a lot going on but Sarah Vaughan brings it all together expertly, creating a plot that will keep you enthralled from the very beginning.
I felt that I identified with several of the main characters and the one thing they all have in common is their love of baking. I really loved how Vaughan showed how and why baking had become such a big part of their lives. Baking is one of my hobbies and I think that the author cleverly showed how emotive it is as a past-time. I love trying new recipes and getting them right but the main reason I enjoy baking is that I like to be able to share it with other people. I love it when my daughter asks for a particular cake that I make as I know that I have created something that she enjoys and will remember from her childhood.
The Art of Baking Blind appealed to me on so many different levels. It was warm, witty and insightful. I felt like it was a very comforting read that resonated with me, I highly recommend that you read it,

Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.  

10.8.15

BOOK REVIEW: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Fiona Maye, a leading High Court Judge, renowned for her fierce intelligence and sensitivity, is called on to try an urgent case. For religious reasons, a seventeen-year old boy is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, Time is running out.
She visits the boy in hospital- an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. But it is Fiona who must ultimately decide whether he lives or dies and her judgement will have momentous consequences for them both. 

Publisher: Vintage Books
Pages: 213

I bought this book a while back but decided to save it for my holiday so that I could really focus on it. At 213 pages, it is reasonably short but I have very much enjoyed taking my time with it and Ian McEwan gives you so much to think about. Ashamedly this is my first Ian McEwan book but I am pretty certain that he's going to become a firm favourite.
Fiona Maye is a deeply respected High Court judge; she is called on to try the case of a seventeen-year old boy, Adam Henry whose family is refusing treatment for Leukaemia as it would involve blood transfusions which are forbidden within their religion. Fiona goes to visit the dangerously ill boy in hospital to hear his side of the story and explain her role and thinking on the matter. This visit, quite unprecedented affects Adam and Fiona in very different and unexpected ways and the consequences of their discussion are felt long after the case has been closed. During this time, Fiona's marriage is in big trouble; whilst making momentous decisions about other people's lives, her own seems to be falling apart.
The Children Act is one of the most interesting books I have read, there was so much to learn and think about; the story and the characters were extremely powerful and I feel they will stay with me for a long time.
Considering the book is so short, Ian McEwan explores so many different avenues; religion, morality, love, choice, infidelity, ambition and desire. Fiona Maye is an extraordinary character; we know that she is highly intelligent from the job that she does yet she is also clearly human. Even though she is allowed to sit and pass judgement on other people's lives and choices, her life is far from perfect, a fact that she is very much aware of. I felt that Fiona's character raised so many questions in my mind. How can she truly stop her own personal life from affecting her professional judgement of Adam's case?  I also think that it is so important that Fiona is a woman; she makes is abundantly clear that she chose her career over children. Even in this day and age it is very difficult for women to have it all, it appears that women have to sacrifice more than men if they want to climb to the top of the ladder. Would Fiona's thinking on Adam's case have been different if she had children of her own?
The Children Act contains a lot of information on the legal system and I thought that it was fascinating. Every day people have their lives affected by people like Fiona, passing judgement on their actions. That is a huge responsibility we are placing on individuals, can they be right all the time?
The Children Act was an absorbing, fascinating and powerful read. Ian McEwan's writing style is exemplary and I highly recommend this remarkable book.

5.8.15

BOOK REVIEW:Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

'Who is going to be the fish in this relationship and who is going to be the fisherman?'
BILL HODGES, retired cop, tormented by 'the Mercedes massacre', a case he never solved.
BRADY HARTSFIELD, perpetrator of that notorious crime, and preparing to kill again.
Now each is closing in on the other in a mega-stakes race against time from world-wide, best selling master of suspense, Stephen King.

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 405

This is the first Stephen King novel I have read and I loved it! I know that Mr Mercedes is not like his other books; it is more of a thriller than a horror but I thought it was fantastic. I can see why Stephen King is so well respected, reading this was like being given a master-class in story-telling.
Bill Hodges is retired and bored. He is thinking back over old cases he had to leave unsolved; the most important being 'the Mercedes Massacre'. Someone drove a Mercedes into a big group of people in the early hours of the morning. These were desperate people, queuing in the early hours to attend a jobs fair; the driver killed eight and seriously maimed many more. The fact that the killer was simply able to drive off into the fog has frustrated Hodges as he feels he has failed to get justice for the victims.
Brady Hartsfield was the Mercedes Killer; he still can't quite believe that he got away with it. He is ready to kill again and he wants Bill Hodges to know about it. Here begins a game of cat and mouse, will Hodges be able to identify Brady before he strikes again?
Mr Mercedes is beautifully written and expertly plotted. Brady Hartsfield is a vile creation and truly believable, he's terrifying. There is a follow up to this book which I will definitely be reading but it has also made me want to try some of King's horror novels so let me know if you have any favourites or suggestions of what I should begin with?

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