Skip to content

#Bookvent #Day17 My Top Reads of 2018 @louisewriter

Day seventeen in my series showcasing my top reads of 2018, following the innovative #bookvent idea from Jen Lucas of Jen Med’s Book Reviews.

advent calendar

There is a special beauty to this writing that captivates, entrances, and really makes you care about the characters. I think the reason the prose is so rich and rewarding is that she is able to find the extraordinary in the ordinary; to take a story that could easily happen anywhere and weave it into a magical story of love, life and heartfelt emotion that is nothing less than epic.

Number 17

Which book is behind Door no 17?

Cover for the Lion Tamer who lost

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t…

Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…

Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it?
What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart.

This was such an easy decision, as this book may just be my book of the year (vying with Putney). The combination of tender, poignant writing, great characterisation and rich, sumptuous prose is absolutely irresistible.

I loved this book and the story just had to be told. Louise Beech is a consummate storyteller and this book is absolute proof of that.

You can read my review here

Buy the book   Amazon                  Waterstone

christmas decoration
See my #bookvent post tomorrow for another top read of 2018

#Bookvent #Day16 Top Reads of 2018 @sofkazinovieff

Today it is day sixteen in my series showcasing my top reads of 2018, following the innovative idea of #bookvent from Jen Lucas of Jen Med’s Book Reviews.

What sweet treat is behind door no 16?

My choice for today’s top read is not a comfortable one. It is a  beautifully constructed, wholly engrossing, thought provoking, wholly uncomfortable read.

This book is a novel about child exploitation, specifically child abuse. I was less than sure I would be able to read this book, far less wax lyrical about the writing, but it is so beautifully drawn and so carefully laid out that I found myself completely drawn in by it and having to examine my own judgemental feelings as I went along.

Today’s book choice is, however, so carefully written and the subject so well treated that it really does deserve its place in my top reads of this yeat.

It is the 1970s and Ralph, an up-and-coming composer, is visiting Edmund Greenslay at his riverside home in Putney to discuss a collaboration.

Through the house’s colourful rooms and unruly garden flits nine-year-old Daphne – dark, teasing, slippery as mercury, more sprite than boy or girl.

From the moment their worlds collide, Ralph is consumed by an obsession to make Daphne his. But Ralph is twenty-five and Daphne is only a child, and even in the bohemian abandon of 1970s London their fast-burgeoning relationship must be kept a secret. It is not until years later that Daphne is forced to confront the truth of her own childhood – and an act of violence that has lain hidden for decades.

Putney is a bold, thought-provoking novel about the moral lines we tread, the stories we tell ourselves and the memories that play themselves out again and again, like snatches of song.

I’d say this is a story of historical sex abuse, except that for Daphne, now approaching 50, this is her life and has been since she was 9 years old.

For Daphne this is love, belonging and adoration. For Ralph it is pure, unalloyed romanticism and he revels in her naivety and her enthusiasm for him.

Told both in both the present day and in memory flashbacks to the 70’s Putney has three voices, that of Daphne, Ralph and Daphne’s friend, Jane Fish. This is a carefully told story in which we learn about their relationship and its ultimate consummation in Greece when Daphne is 13 years old.

All too relevant for the ‘me too’ generation, this is a book that ultimately pulls no punches, but leaves you questioning the chiaroscuro between action and motive.

You can read my review here

Buy the book  Amazon                       Waterstones

Drop by tomorrow for my next top read of the year

#Bookvent #Day15 My Top Reads of 2018 @Backmanland

My grateful thanks to Jen Lucas of Jen Med’s Book Reviews, whose concept this is and who generously said I could use it.

advent calendar
Which book has made it into my top reads list at number 15?

This is a book, which, together with its predecessor,  soars above the crowd; two novels that examine societal behaviour by tackling the big issues and putting them into small town life. If that sounds grandiose, it isn’t. This author shows us humanity in all its forms; makes us laugh and cry, creates characters who can at once be divisive and healing and shows us how easily manipulation can make puppets of us all.

My choice for today’s top read of 2018 is an astounding read. if this author were to rewrite the telephone directory, I think I’d buy it sight unseen.

Us Against You jacket cover

Can a broken town survive a second tragedy? The follow-up to the international bestseller Beartown.

Beartown is dying . . .

Tucked in a forest in the frozen north, Beartown’s residents are tough and hardworking. They don’t expect life to be easy, but they do expect it to be fair.

Which is why the sudden loss of their hockey players to the rival town of Hed hurts. Everyone needs something to cheer for in the long winter nights. Now they have nothing.

So when a new star player arrives, Coach Peter sees an opportunity to rebuild the team – to take on Hed and restore Beartown’s fortunes. But not everyone in town sees it his way.

As the big game between both towns approaches, the rivalry turns bitter and all too real. Once the stands rumbled with threats to ‘kill’ and ‘ruin’ each other, but the residents didn’t mean it. Now they do.

By the time the last goal is scored, someone in Beartown will be dead . . .

Us Against You is the story of two towns, two teams and what it means to believe in something bigger than yourself. It’s about how people come together – sometimes in anger, often in sorrow, but also through love. And how, when we stand together, we can bring a town back to life.

I adored Beartown, the first book in this series and I loved Us Against You just as much. Backman’s writing is as smooth as silk and his narrative arcs are perfectly formed jewels. He has this trick of telling us at the beginning of the chapter what is going to happen, yet by the end of that chapter we are left astonished that it has.

Intense, propulsive, shocking and teetering throughout on the verge of violence, this is a book that stirred all my emotions as the suspense mounted and the story took on a life of its own.

If you read nothing else, read this.

You can read my review here

Buy the book   Amazon                  Waterstones

decorated large christmas tree
Please stop by tomorrow for another top read of 2018

#Bookvent Top Reads of 2018 #Day14 @SSCAV

Today it is day fourteen in my series showcasing my top reads of 2018, following the innovative idea of #bookvent from Jen Lucas of Jen Med’s Book Reviews.

What’s behind door no 14?

Today’s book choice is from an author whose series I was first introduced to by my sister, a woman with excellent taste, and I have really enjoyed the travails of this con man turned lawyer. Now I love a good legal thriller, but this book was exceptional, taking his protagonist to another level.

Yes, it’s written by lawyer turned author and well known podcaster, who is one half of Two Crime Writers and a Microphone, Steve Cavanagh.



To your knowledge, is there anything that would preclude you from serving on this jury?’

Murder wasn’t the hard part. It was just the start of the game.

Joshua Kane has been preparing for this moment his whole life. He’s done it before.

But this is the big one.

This is the murder trial of the century. And Kane has killed to get the best seat in the house.But there’s someone on his tail. Someone who suspects that the killer isn’t the man on trial.

Kane knows time is running out – he just needs to get to the conviction without being discovered.

It isn’t just the hook, which is in itself pretty damned clever, but the whole tightly plotted, brilliantly thought through story line that twists and turns until you have doubled back on yourself so often you start to get dizzy.

Cavanagh’s writing keeps the reader enthralled and on the edge of their seat as they try to work out what just happened and what’s coming next.

Thirteen is gripping, compelling, a brilliant read and absolutely belongs on everyone’s must read list.

You can read my review here

Buy the book   Amazon                 Waterstones

Drop by tomorrow for another top read of 2018

#Bookvent My Top Reads of 2018 #DAY 13 @LiamMcIlvanney

We’re just over halfway to Christmas, only 12 sleeps left now and today’s #bookvent post, showcasing my top reads of the year, is a real cracker.

#Bookvent comes to you courtesy of the lovely Jen Lucas from Jen Med’s book reviews, whose brill idea #bookvent is.

Today’s book stood out as soon as I began to read it. It spoke to me of home, family, secrets and history. It is as much a book about my home city and its people as it is about a serial killer.

number 13

Have you guessed which award winning book is behind door 13?

Susan Calman said of this book
‘It was, for me, the stand out book from the longlist. It’s one of those novels that as soon as I finished it, I looked forward to reading it again. Not only did I love the evocative recreation of Glasgow but the characters created were refreshing and surprising. It was such a pleasure to read.’

The longlist was of course the Bloody Scotland McIlvanney longlist for Scottish Crime Novel of the year and this year it was won by my 13th top read of the year, The Quaker, by Liam McIlvanney.

jacket cover of the quaker by Liam mcilvanney

A city torn apart.

Glasgow, 1969. In the grip of the worst winter for years, the city is brought to its knees by a killer whose name fills the streets with fear: the Quaker. He takes his next victim – the third woman from the same nightclub – and dumps her in the street like rubbish.

A detective with everything to prove.

The police are left chasing a ghost, with no new leads and no hope of catching their prey. DI McCormack, a talented young detective from the Highlands, is ordered to join the investigation. But his arrival is met with anger from a group of officers on the brink of despair. Soon he learns just how difficult life can be for an outsider.

A killer who hunts in the shadows.

When another woman is found murdered in a tenement flat, it’s clear the case is by no means over. From ruined backstreets to the dark heart of Glasgow, McCormack follows a trail of secrets that will change the city – and his life – forever…

Loosely based on the murders of the real – and never caught – serial killer “Bible John”, who is believed to have raped and strangled three women after meeting them in the city’s Barrowland Ballroom, quoting passages from the bible to them as he danced with them.

This novel goes much deeper into the fictional realm to create a classy and atmospheric novel that is redolent with the fear that gripped Glasgow during that time, when newspapers could sell thousands of copies by putting a murderer on Page 1.

McIlvanney has created a distinctive and beautifully written fiction from the genesis of the facts. With a clear and multi-layered plot and dialogue that is sharp and often quite lyrical, McIlvanney weaves a strong story into a propulsive powerhouse of a book.

Read my review here

Buy the book            Amazon                            Waterstones

I hope you enjoyed today’s choice. Please come back tomorrow for another top read of 2018

#Bookvent My Top Reads of 2018 #Day 12

Day twelve in my series showcasing my top reads of 2018, following the innovative #bookvent idea from Jen Lucas of Jen Med’s Book Reviews.

As you may already have guessed, the book behind door number 12 is a red hot read. Do you know what it is?

This was my first foray into this author’s writing and gosh I was blown away by the book.  It is an exciting, vivid, technicolour read with great characters, brilliant plotting and lots of action, though not for the feint-hearted or weak stomached, at least for the first few pages.

Welcome to the Puppet Show . . .

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.

When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of.

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive …

The Puppet Show is really good storytelling married with strong and coherent plotting and a couple of protagonists who really engage both your heart and your brain.

All the characters, including our duo, are really well drawn. The plot is terrific and has both pace and tension with some great twisty moments. I was engrossed all the way through and just loved the explosive ending.

I enjoyed this book so much and am waiting in a state of high anticipation for the next in the series.

You can read my review here

Buy the book: Amazon                                         Waterstones

Do stop by tomorrow for another of my top reads of 2018

The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup trs by Caroline Waight @MJBooks @JennyPlatt90 #blogtour #TheChestnutMann

Source: Review copy   
Publication: Michael Joseph on 10 Jan. 2019
PP: 512
ISBN-13: 978-0241372104

One blustery October morning in a quiet Copenhagen suburb, the police make a terrible discovery. A young woman is found brutally murdered with one ofher hands missing. Above her hangs a small doll made of chestnuts.

Ambitious young detective Naia Thulin is assigned the case. Herpartner, Mark Hess, is a burned-out investigator who’s just been kicked out of Europol. They soon discover a mysterious piece of evidence on the chestnut man – evidence connecting it to a girl who went missing a year earlier and is presumed dead; the daughter of politician Rosa Hartung. The man who confessed to her murder is behind bars and the case long since closed.

Soon afterwards, a second woman is found murdered, along with another chestnut man. Thulin and Hess suspect that there’s a connection between the Hartung case and the murdered women. But what is it?

Thulin and Hess are racing against the clock, because it’s clear that the killer is on a mission that is far from over . . .

As you might imagine, when offered the opportunity to read the debut novel by the author who both wrote and created the immensely successful TV show, The Killing, I practically bit Jenny Platt’s hand off.

And I am so pleased I did. The Chestnut Man is a big, bold and fabulous read. Set in Copenhagen it is wonderfully atmospheric and takes us from high priced homes and apartments to the more downtrodden immigrant areas and into the forests and cabins of Denmark.

Our detective duo is not an obviously well matched pair. Naia Thulin is a young, bright investigator, clearly destined for great things and already getting bored with her role after only nine months at the Major Crimes Division. A single mother, Thulin has no issues with handling her work and her social and family life, though she doesn’t let anyone get too close.

Mark Hess has been sent back from Europol in The Hague to Copenhagen and the Major Crimes Squad in some disgrace, though no-one seems to know exactly what he has done. He’s viewing it as a temporary setback and intends to spend his time making sure he gets back to Europol, where until recently, no-one really looked too hard at what he was doing or why, which suited Hess down to the ground.

The case they are assigned is that of a young single mother who has been found brutally murdered with one of her hands missing at her house in the suburbs . Above her tortured and mutilated body, near the child’s playhouse, hangs a small figure made of chestnuts and twigs. Soon there will be more murders, and the killer’s signature is present at each one, together with cruel amputations on the tortured bodies made pre-mortem.

Rosa Hartung is the Minister for Social Justice in the current Government, but she’s been on an extended absence since her 12 year old daughter Kristine disappeared, presumed murdered. The police caught the perpetrator,Linus Bekker, a mentally ill young man, who confessed to her killing, but was unable to tell the police where he buried the various parts of her dismembered corpse.

Not surprisingly, the family have had a traumatic time trying to get over the loss of their daughter and neither Rosa nor her husband,Steen are the people they once were. Nonetheless, Rosa is preparing to get back to work after her year of absence and Steen is trying his best to move things on but needs the help of quite a few miniatures throughout the day just to get through.

When forensics discover a lead to Kristine at the first murder scene, Thulin and Hess are hard pressed to figure out what connection this murder may have to Rosa and her family.

In a beautifully plotted story arc that examines family life, working relationships and the intensity of police procedures, Sveistrup creates an epic picture of what happens when a murder is committed as well as creating a chilling and savage scenario in which multiple killings are carried out.

How these killings are related and whether the police will get to the truth is always in doubt and the political machinations around an understaffed police system have their own part to play in the success or failure of Thulin and Hess’s chilling and dangerous task.

Sveistrup paces his book well. Sometimes progress is achingly slow yet the book is is still pacy; Tullin and Hess have to pursue a number of seemingly useless leads (when Hess can be bothered to turn up) and sometimes they look at each other in amazement when something they previously missed becomes blindingly obvious.

I loved the storytelling and the relationship dynamics as well as the wide sweep of this intricate and creepy novel. This is class plotting by a master storyteller with enough heart stopping and chilling moments to ensure that the reader’s adrenaline is running on high and the reader is thoroughly steeped in the danger and alert to the many plot twists.

If you loved The Killing, you’re going to love this. All the elements are there, just in story form rather than images and a script.

Verdict: I loved it and The Chestnut Man shoots straight onto my must read list for 2019.

Amazon                              Waterstones

Follow the blogtour to see what others are saying

Søren Sveistrup (born 1968) is an internationally acclaimed scriptwriter of the Danish television phenomenon The Killing which won various international awards and sold in more than a hundred countries.

He holds a master of Literature and History from the University of Copenhagen and has graduated as script writer from the Danish Film School.