It’s Here..! My Booktime Brunch with Antonia Honeywell on Chiltern Voice

grayscale photo of vintage radio beside stove with cooking pot

 

Thank you so much to Antonia for sending me a copy of the Booktime Brunch Show!

Feel free to have a listen, hear how much #Booklove (I know!), there was in this show, and let me know what you think!

To all the people I tagged in my previous post, have a listen to see what we said about you … (all lovely I promise..!).

Thank you for all the wonderful feedback already, and now you can hear the whole thing..

 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did doing it, and let me know if you have any suggestions of books we should be talking about for our Autumn and Christmas Special.

Lots of love,

Clare

xxx

Things In Jars by Jess Kidd

 

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Things In Jars by Jess Kidd

Published by Canongate

Buy It: here

 

What The Blurb Says: 

London, 1863. Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of her age, is taking on her toughest case yet. Reeling from her last job and with her reputation in tatters, a remarkable puzzle has come her way. Christabel Berwick has been kidnapped. But Christabel is no ordinary child. She is not supposed to exist.

As Bridie fights to recover the stolen child she enters a world of fanatical anatomists, crooked surgeons and mercenary showmen. Anomalies are in fashion, curiosities are the thing, and fortunes are won and lost in the name of entertainment. The public love a spectacle and Christabel may well prove the most remarkable spectacle London has ever seen.

Things in Jars is an enchanting Victorian detective novel that explores what it is to be human in inhumane times.

What I Say:

Sometimes, when you least expect it, you find a novel that absorbs you so completely, that you wish there were another hundred pages.

What I did know, was that everyone who had read Things In Jars, had loved it and could not stop recommending it. When I saw that my Bookish Sister, Bookish Chat had awarded it six stars (you can read her review here), I knew that Things In Jars was going to be very special.

Bridie Devine is the heroine, a woman who bursts into the novel and out of the pages with such passion and strength, and into the 1800’s of London’s streets and alleyways with such force that we know she is absolutely in charge of her destiny.  She is working for the police – usually Inspector Rose and actually not officially, to help them solve crimes.  Bridie is still smarting from her failure to reach her last victim in time, and is wary of getting involved with police work again.  However, when she hears about the case of Christabel Berwick, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, who has apparently been kidnapped, she is intrigued and cannot resist getting involved.

We, as readers, know from the very start of the novel that Christabel is not a normal child, and she seems to possess supernatural powers as well as very sharp set of teeth and a fondness for eating slugs and snails!  She is taken from her bed in the middle of the night, but as Bridie starts to investigate, it is apparent that not only do lots of people seem very interested in Christabel, but that also no one is really as innocent as they may seem.  We learn that Christabel is actually a merrow – a magical creature that has the ability to affect the emotions of a person who looks upon her, and that she can also influence the weather.  This of course means that she is a highly valuable prize, who is being touted around until her kidnappers can find the highest bidders.

The London that we are presented with in Things In Jars, is one teeming with life, a world filled with fantastical sights, disorienting sounds and powerful smells that overwhelm and envelop us constantly. London is not presented at its tourist friendly, picture perfect best. This London is one of poverty and suffering, where things that might be ignored in other novels are pushed right in front of our faces so that all we can do is look at them and feel a sense of unease and discomfort. Bridie on the other hand knows exactly how to navigate it to get what she wants.  Bridie is not alone in her endeavours to find Christabel.  She has a maid called Cora, who is a seven foot woman with facial hair and a whole lot of attitude, as well as a fighter called Ruby Doyle who is a ghost, and only Bridie can see him. As the novel progresses, Ruby and Bridie form a powerful and nearly romantic bond which delights and also frustrates them, as they know they can never truly be together.

This is one of the many things I loved about Things In Jars – the fact that what could have been an ordinary ‘whodunnit’ is elevated way beyond any usual reading experience, and it makes you sit up and take notice from the very start.  There is a sense of the magical, surreal and supernatural which weaves its way into the fabric of the story from the moment you turn the first page. As a reader you are pulled along with Bridie and her unrelenting determination to find Christabel, but Jess’ writing is so wonderful, that the magical elements seem to fit perfectly and are not at all out of place.

Along the way, Bridie and Ruby meet a plethora of interesting and unusual characters, all with a story to tell and more often than not, a score to settle. As Christabel is moved around the capital, and the kidnappers try to find a buyer, there is a sense of unease that starts to unsettle the natural order of the city.  Birds start to congregate, the Thames starts to rise, and London’s inhabitants sense that all is not well with the world and unbeknown to them, Christabel is at the heart of it all.

Although there is lots of humour in the novel, it is a very real depiction of the grim reality for many of those living in London, far away from the wealth and privilege of the monied classes.  Jess is not afraid to show the dark and often grim side of life. People and children are killed, a decapitation occurs, and we also see how awful it was for those who had to have operations in a time where there was no anaesthetics. It also shows us how difficult it was for women like Bridie, who are fiercely intelligent and refuse to be limited by society’s expectations and have to constantly battle to ensure that they are heard.  This made me love Bridie even more, and at the heart of her character lies kindness and compassion and an overwhelming desire to find Christabel in time.

Things In Jars is a novel that is breathtaking in its scope, that delves into the dark underbelly of London and captures our attention and heart from the very first page.  Bridie is a fierce and captivating character, who defies the limits that others place on her and is reassuringly comfortable with who she is and what she wants. Jess Kidd has boldly taken a familiar genre, unapologetically turned it on its head, added elements of the supernatural and magical and created a fantastic and vibrant world filled with amazing characters that quite simply that leaves us wanting more.

I loved it.

The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath

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Mel McGrath: The Guilty Party

Published By: HQ Stories

Buy It: here

What The Blurb Says:

You did nothing. That doesn’t mean you’re innocent.

On a night out, four friends witness a stranger in trouble. They decide to do nothing to help.

Later, a body washes up on the banks of the Thames – and the group realises that ignoring the woman has left blood on their hands.

But why did each of them refuse to step in? Why did none of them want to be noticed that night? Who is really responsible?

And is it possible that the victim was not really a stranger at all?

What I Say:

‘It won’t go away, that memory, that secret. It will sink into the deeper layers of our friendship until returning to the surface someday, it will begin to destroy us from the inside.’

There is a very famous saying which I am sure you all know. ‘Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.’

The Guilty Party by Mel McGrath is perhaps a perfect example of the fact that sometimes they can be one and the same thing.

Cassie, Anna, Bo and Dex seem to be a tightly knit group of friends who have known each other for ever, and are the sort of annoying cliquey group who can finish each other’s sentences and are unrelenting in telling jokes and limitless anecdotes about their friendship.

One night, whilst at a music festival, the group witness a a violent sexual assault on a young woman, and do nothing. They walk away, too fearful of the implications of getting involved, and retreat back to their own worlds.

The thing is, that Cassie cannot forget what she has seen. When a body of a woman is washed up from the Thames, the nameless woman is named as Marika, a real person who, it turns out, was actually a part of all of the group’s lives for very different reasons.

So far so formulaic you may think? This is where you are very wrong.

The Guilty Party is a clever and scathing examination of the true nature of friendship, how what you see is not always what you get. It may seem that the group lead a picture perfect life, but each of them is fractured and very adept at maintaining a facade whilst underneath their reality is far from perfect. Cassie is unhappy and desperately short of money. Anna’s seemingly wonderful marriage is far from it and she has issues around food. Dex is constantly cheating on his older husband who has cancer, and Bo may seem to be the very personification of a successful IT entrepreneur, but he has a very dark secret that would ruin him should it become public. The group also use their online Little Black Book to document the people they have been with, which could be explosive should it get into the wrong hands. Coupled with these secrets that bubble under the surface, Anna and Bo, once an item, seem to be unable to untangle their lives and determine the lines of their friendship, whilst Dex and Cassie were also an item before he came out.

As Cassie becomes more absorbed in trying to understand who the victim was, and unravelling the guilt that is seeping into and through her friends, she starts to realise that maybe each one of them had a part to play in Marika’s death.

When the group stay at an isolated cottage for the weekend, it is there that the four friends are forced to finally confront how each of them played a part in Marika’s fate. The location and distance of the cottage from the outside world means that inside the cottage becomes increasingly claustrophobic as Cassie, Anna, Bo and Dex are forced to not only confront the reality of what they have done, but also the fact that they may really not be as close as they think. It is as if increasingly their friendship is only held together by the reality that each of them has devastating secrets that they can never have exposed.

The plot moves quickly and backwards and forwards in time, which for me helped to add to the idea that you are increasingly disorientated as a reader, and are never quite sure who is telling the truth. I also really felt that each character really inhabited their voice in the book and that the different language and style of talking that Mel uses, really pulls you in to their world and gives a real insight into their characters.

Little by little, the cracks in the group start to get ever larger and it becomes evident that perhaps the greatest danger is from someone inside the group rather than the authorities. As the novel races towards its conclusion, the friends are forced to realise that they are far from innocent in Marika’s fate, and that their behaviour means that their lives will never be the same again once they leave the cottage.

The Guilty Party is the perfect definition of a page turner. I loved the pace of the novel, and the way that Mel makes you move deftly between the narrative and the characters, so you are never really sure what is going to happen next. It is a thoughtful and intelligent examination of privilege and morality, of friendship, and of understanding that sometimes the ties that bind us together are in fact the very things that also pull us apart. The Guilty Party is a brilliantly addictive novel, that deserves all the accolades it is receiving, and I absolutely loved it.

As Cassie says;

‘If you had been in the churchyard that night, what would you have done?’

‘And are you sure?’

Thank you so much to Joe Thomas at HQ Stories for my gifted copy of The Guilty Party and the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, in exchange for an honest review.

You can find out what my fellow Bloggers are saying about The Guilty Party by following the Tour below.

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

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Alex Michaelides: The Silent Patient

Published By: Orion Books

Buy It: here

What The Blurb Says:

ALICIA
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

THEO
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

 

What I Say:

As regular readers (Thank you Mum and Dad), of my blog will know, I am not one for posting pictures or videos of myself on the interweb to publicise books.  Sometimes, when you read something that is so brilliant, that gives you that ‘WHAT THE ??’ reaction, sitting down, firing up your laptop and being witty and erudite at the time is not what it needs.

The picture you see on this blog post, is me, just after I had read #ThatPage of The Silent Patient.  I can honestly say, this is the first novel in a long time that has made me stop and re-read the previous pages to see if I missed any clue, any sign of what was to come (spoiler alert  – not one thing!).

The Silent Patient is the story of Alicia and Gabriel. A happy Instaperfect couple who seemingly have it all.  In love, successful and full of life, they inhabit a world we can only dream of – until Alicia shoots and kills Gabriel, and from that day on she does not speak.

Baffled by her mutism, unable to understand why Alicia killed Gabriel, she is sent to The Grove, a secure unit where she is sedated, silenced and unable to communicate with anyone.

Theo Faber decides that he is the therapist who can finally reach Alicia.  He is determined to be the one person who can make her talk and explain why she killed her husband.  The thing is, Theo is not doing this out of the kindness of his heart, he has an agenda.  He is fully aware of the kudos and celebrity cracking a case like this will bring, and his self-assured manner and downright arrogance means that from the start, you sense that he doesn’t truly have her best interests at heart.  Theo is mesmerised by Alicia, and will do whatever it takes to ensure he is the man she will owe her recovery to.

Alicia’s silence is due in part to the heavy doses of medication she has to take, and when Theo convinces Diomedes, the head of the unit to decrease the dosage so he can start to try and communicate with her, you know that this is finally the start of the process of Alicia’s recovery.

As Theo starts to work with Alicia, his personal life is also brought into focus, we understand that things are not going well for him with his wife Kathy, and he is forced to confront the fact that is own marriage may not be as happy as he believed. As a result, the ethical lines start to become blurred, and Theo researches Alicia’s life before Gabriel was killed.  He becomes increasingly obsessed with Alicia, and wants to be her saviour, which means that he will do whatever he needs to to ensure he is the one person she relies on.

I think that the notion of power is a very interesting one that runs throughout this book. Theo believes he is the powerful one as he has the academic knowledge to make that vital breakthrough with Alicia, but increasingly it becomes clear that she has all the power in the relationship.  As she comes off her medication, Alicia does not suddenly start to talk in a bid to prove her innocence.  She delights and frustrates Theo in equal measure, communicating with non verbal gestures, then retreating completely.  It is only when Theo sets up a room for Alicia with all her painting materials that he starts to see she is communicating to him through her art.  It is also worth noting that Alicia at the time of the murder, was working on a self portrait she had called Alcestis – the story of a woman who gave her life for her husband, and when she was returned to life, she was mute, filled with rage that her husband would allow her to sacrifice herself so he could live.

When Alicia gives Theo her diary to read, he feels that he has finally made the breakthrough he had been desperate for, and that his success will only be matched by Alicia’s gratitude. Even more amazingly, when Alicia finally starts to speak, she is able to finally start to fill in the events surrounding Gabriel’s death and make sense of what had happened to her.

From that point on, The Silent Patient twists and turns and pulls and pushes you, hurtling towards that exquisite moment when the penny finally drops, and you will finally understand why I posted that picture!  In The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides has written a triumphant first novel.  It is perfectly plotted and filled with characters who delight and revolt you with equal measure, as you turn the pages desperate to understand why Alicia does not speak.  The Silent Patient is a debut novel that achieves that rare phenomenon of being an absolute jaw dropping page turner,  but is a clever dissection of the power of speech and mental health too. You will be hearing a lot about this novel, and quite rightly so – it might only be February, but it is one of my novels of the year.

Buy it, read it, and when you get to ‘that moment’, you will understand exactly why I absolutely loved it.

Thank you to Poppy Stimpson and Ben Willis at Orion for gifting me a copy, and to Alex Michaelides for helping me well and truly get my reading mojo back!

 

 

 

 

The Secrets You Hide by Kate Helm

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The Secrets You Hide by Kate Helm

Published By Bonnier Zaffre

Buy It: here

What The Blurb Says:

Georgia Sage has a gift: she can see evil in people. As a courtroom artist she uses her skills to help condemn those who commit terrible crimes. After all, her own brutal past means she knows innocence is even rarer than justice.

But when she is drawn back into the trial that defined her career, a case of twisted family betrayal, she realises her own reckless pursuit of justice may have helped the guilty go free.

As Georgia gets closer to the truth behind the Slater family, something happens that threatens not only her career – but even her own sanity. At first, she fears her guilt around the events of her terrible childhood is finally coming back to haunt her.

The truth turns out to be even more terrifying . . .

What I Say:

Georgia Sage has a job that many of us don’t even think about. We take for granted the sketches from inside the courtroom that appear on our news programmes and only notice them if something stands out about them. Georgia not only sketches scenes from inside the courtroom, but she understands the power that she has in interpreting the character of the people inside the courtroom. By deciding whether or not she feels that someone is guilty or not guilty, Georgia produces sketches that show the personality of the person and influences the judging decisions that are made. Georgia wants justice to be done, and for those who are guilty to be punished.

Georgia is not doing this as a malicious endeavour, she herself has been the victim of a senseless and unspeakably terrible crime. As a young girl, then called Suzanne, she was locked in her bedroom as her father killed her mother and her younger brother Pip. Her life shattered and incomprehensible, she is sent to live with foster parents and given a new identity as Georgia Sage to start to rebuild her life.

Little by little, Georgia starts to see a young boy around her. The only thing is, no one else does. Georgia knows that something is not right, but she feels she has no one to turn to. As well as trying to maintain her career, she is battling with the realisation that she may be like her father, and is suffering with mental health issues.

When Georgia is approached to draw a picture for a book featuring the most memorable cases of courtroom artists, she finds herself forced to revisit a disturbing case she had to document earlier in her career. Daniel Fielding, apparently jealous of his new step mother, set fire to the house while she was inside, unaware she was pregnant and that there were two children being babysat inside. His father Jim, had rushed into the fire and managed to save the two young children. However, he lost his wife and unborn baby in a seemingly senseless crime perpetrated by a member of his family.

When Jim and Georgia meet, he seems initally to be the reluctant and humble hero, but as Georgia starts to paint him, to see the man behind the headlines. you sense that there is much more to him than first appears. For me, I thought that it was particularly poignant that the more Georgia adds layers to her painting, that more layers are peeled away from Jim and the world around him. There is always an unease that permeates every visit she makes, a sense of mistrusting Georgia because she is not local, and that Jim is such a powerful part of his local community. As she gets more involved in his world, she starts to realise that Jim may be far more complex and not the folk hero he first seems..

All the while, Georgia is seeing not only a little boy called Charlie, who it transpires was one of the children caught in the Fielding’s fire, but also her murdered brother Pip, and a teenage girl Georgia nicknames Pink. This is a brilliant plot device – it serves to disorentiate and confuse us and wonder what on earth this means.  We see Georgia battling with her demons on a daily basis, and how it makes her worry about her own mental state and ability to function, to appear ‘normal’ so she can keep her job.

When the reason for Georgia seeing these children is revealed (as always, am not going to tell you – buy the book!), as a reader you understand that this not only explains what Georgia has been seeing and why, but also makes us understand how she has to become focussed on what is ultimately important to resolve these issues while she still can.

In Georgia, Kate has created a sensitive and relatable character. We feel her sense of loss, her ongoing struggle to try and build an identity and a new life. I felt that we were as much a part of Georgia’s journey as she is, she is trying to not only make sense of her past life, but also to ultimately be comfortable with her new one.

What differentiates The Secrets You Hide, and for me, makes it a must read novel is that it is so different to anything I have read before. The whole plot unravels little by little and packs punch after punch and twist after twist. I am certainly not going to tell you any more about what happens, because it would absolutely spoilt it, but let me tell you this. I have read lots of books, and I did not guess at all what was going to happen. The joy of The Secrets You Hide is its complexity and intelligence.  It takes the tried and tested thriller genre, shakes it up, and adds a brilliantly flawed heroine who we desperately want to succeed, and ensures we are there every breathtaking step of the way.

Kate Helm’s first novel of this genre is brilliant in its orginality and razor sharp in its execution.  Believe me, if you love books, and are looking for your next must read novel, you won’t want to miss this chance to meet Georgia Sage for the first, and hopefully not the last time.

I loved it.

What Kate Says:

I am very proud to have a guest post from Kate Helm, the Author of The Secrets You Hide – here’s Kate to tell you about which podcasts you should be listening to and why.

Am off to download them all now…

Top 5 podcasts for thriller fans – and thriller writers – by author Kate Helm

If you’re a crime or thriller fan who hasn’t discovered podcasts yet, this could change your life.

I love podcasts: they’re free, easy to download and they transform household chores, dog walks and any other routine task into a fascinating experience. And, in my case, they’ve even inspired an entire novel: the idea for The Secrets You Hide came when I was listening to one on a cross-trainer.

So here are my top 5 for fans of crime and thriller writing:

Criminal – the unexpected podcast

It was an episode of Criminal, a beautifully made American podcast, that triggered the idea for my novel about a courtroom artist. In Pen and Paper, They interviewed court sketch artists about their work and how it felt to stare into the eyes of the accused and the seed of the story began to grow in my mind. I love Criminal because the show features quirky, unexpected cases and fascinating people who operate across the law, from dog theft to the impact of gunshot wounds.

They walk among us – the British crime podcast

Many crime-themed podcasts are US-based, but this one focuses on UK cases – it can be gritty but I love the range of topics covered, from the Krays right up to contemporary trials.

File on 4 – the investigative podcast

This is a UK BBC current affairs show so each week there’s a well-made investigative documentary covering crime and legal issues, as well as other controversial subjects. It’s not just the stories themselves that grip, it’s also how the reporters uncover them, as it gives you a glimpse of what it takes to get to the truth.

The bingeworthy one-off podcasts – Serial, Murder in the Lucky Holiday Hotel, The Ratline

Serial put investigative podcasts on the map, as it unpicked a cold case step-by-step across multiple episodes: it’s now on its third season. I am a sucker for a story that unravels slowly, playing tricks with you as you change your mind about guilt or innocence. The two ‘intrigue’ documentaries from the BBC offer the same depth and doubts, with Murder at the Lucky Holiday Hotel focusing on shady Chinese-British business dealings, and The Ratline dealing with the Nazi’s secret escape route from Europe.

Hidden Brain – the podcast about what makes us tick

Too much true crime can be exhausting or depressing – and like many readers, and writers, the whydunnit matters as much to me as the whodunnit. Hidden Brain is a great listen, covering the psychology of groups and individuals, from #metoo to procrastination or going without sleep. The examples are always fascinating and the presenter Shankar Vedantam really gets the most of out each topic.

The Secrets You Hide is published as an e-book on October 4 and paperback on February 7. Join Kate’s free book club for exclusive previews and competitions to win signed books by your favourite thriller authors, via Kate’s website www.kate-harrison.com or follow her on Twitter @katewritesbooks

If you have missed any more posts from Kate’s Blog Tour, here are my fellow brilliant bloggers who have been taking part. Find out what they have been saying about The Secrets You Hide..

Thanks to Francesca Russell and Sahina Bibi at Bonnier Zaffre and Netgalley for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.