Review: Hindsight by Melanie Casey

 

Title: Hindsight {Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson #1}

Author: Melanie Casey

Published: Pantera Press May 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from August 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Melanie Casey’s debut novel, Hindsight, has been on my wishlist since its release. It is the first book in a series to feature Cass Lehman, a woman with the psychic gift of retrocognition, and South Australian police detective, Ed Dyson.

For almost a decade, Cass Lehman has lived more or less like a recluse in the home she shares with her mother and grandmother. Travel is difficult when her gift of retrocognition means that when she passes over a place where someone has died in a violent or traumatic manner, Cass experiences their final horrifying moments. Now twenty eight and tired of her self imposed exile, Cass decides it is time to confront her demons and takes a huge risk by offering her services to the local police department after a woman is found murdered in an alleyway. The lead detective on the case, Ed Dyson, is scornful until Cass makes the connection between a handful of missing person cases and murders that has eluded Dyson for years, and the pair find themselves on the trail of a serial killer.

Cass’s ability is intriguing, and can be viewed as both a gift and a curse. She pays a high price for her ‘gift’, since she not only sees and hears what the victims experienced but also feels the physical pain and emotional trauma they suffered. I really like that Cass’s talent isn’t always useful, since Cass can only see what the victim saw in their last moments when the killer strikes from behind, for example, she isn’t able to offer much to a investigation.

The initial partnership between Cass and Ed is not an easy one. Ed is still struggling with the unsolved disappearance of his pregnant wife two years previously and doesn’t have the patience to humour Cass given his skepticism. Cass resents Ed’s easy dismissal of her, both because she believes she can help and because she is attracted to the detective.

Casey alternates between the first person perspective of Cass and third person perspectives from Ed, and the killer the pair are hunting. It’s an unusual narrative split but works well and I barely noticed the transitions. The plot is well crafted, and crucially Casey doesn’t allow the paranormal element to overwhelm the structure of a good crime novel. The pacing of the story is good with a tense, and somewhat gruesome, climatic ending that threatens the lives of both the protagonists.

Combining crime fiction with an interesting paranormal element and a touch of romance, I really enjoyed reading Hindsight. I’d particularly recommend it those who find the genre mix appealing and who might have liked Charlaine Harris’s Harper Connelly series. I’m looking forward to following Hindsight up with Casey’s second book, Craven.

 

Hindsight is available to purchase from

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Review: The Catch by Taylor Stevens

 

Title: The Catch { Vanessa Michael Munroe #4}

Author: Taylor Stevens

Published: Crown Publishing: Random House July 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from August 18 to 19, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Catch by Taylor Stevens is the fourth book to feature the unusual character of Vanessa Michael Munroe.

Regrouping after the events of The Doll, Munroe has been biding her time in Djibouti, Africa, working as an interpreter for a small private security company as ‘Michael’. When Munroe’s boss accepts a job on a freighter bound for Kenya, Leo, jealous of Michael’s closeness with his wife Amber and oblivious to Michael’s real gender and talents, insists she accompanies the team. Part way through the voyage, the ship is attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia but Munroe escapes with the injured freighter captain in tow. It quickly becomes obvious that the pirate’s target was not the cargo, which included a secret cache of weapons, but the captain, and to save the crew Munroe must negotiate the shadowy world of piracy, Hawala and corruption.

Munroe is such an intriguing character, a borderline sociopath capable of lethal violence with finely honed instincts, she is also highly intelligent, resourceful and has a prodigious talent for languages, skills which she makes good use of in The Catch.

The story of The Catch is perhaps more cerebral than in previous installments. Gathering information and planning strategy is more important than Munroe’s physical prowess as she scrambles to understand the motives of the pirates while nursing debilitating injuries inflicted by a vicious group of hired thugs.

The weakness for me in this story is in the motive Taylor ascribes to Munroe for saving the ship and its crew. I just wasn’t convinced Munroe’s attachment to Amber was strong enough to risk so much for her, even given Munroe’s unique sense of justice and loyalty.

Though The Catch could be read as a standalone, familiarity with the unique character of Munroe lends a richness that enhances the story. As someone familiar with the series I was satisfied with this installment and I am eager to discover what Munroe’s next move will be.

The Catch  is available to purchase from

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Also reviewed on Book’d Out


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Review: I Work at a Public Library by Gina Sheridan

 

Title: I Work at a Public Library: a collection of crazy stories from the stacks

Author: Gina Sheridan

Published: Adams Media July 2014

Status: Read on August 17, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I Work at a Public Library is, as subtitled, a collection of crazy stories from the stacks, written and curated by librarian Gina Sheridan, based on her blog http://iworkatapubliclibrary.com/.

With chapters organised using the Dewey Decimal system, Gina Sheridan shares the amusing, touching and just plain weird experiences she, and others, have encountered in their work as a librarian.

The anecdotes are gleaned from overheard conversations, patron questions, observations and encounters with the people of all ages who visit the library for all sorts of reasons, sometimes not meaning to be there at all.

This short book is sure to raise a smile and a little consternation, from any one who has spent anytime in a library.

“Adult patron to librarian: “I was told to read three books. I think one is small and blue. Can you tell me which ones they are?”

I Work at a Public Library is available to purchase from

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Review: New Orleans Requiem by Don J. Donaldson

 

Title: New Orleans Requiem {Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn #4}

Author: Don J. Donaldson

Published: Astor+Blue February 2013

Status: Read from August 15 to 16, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

New Orleans Requiem is the fourth book in Don J. Donaldon’s mystery series featuring chief medical examiner Andy Broussard and Kit Franklyn, a consultant psychologist for both the ME’s office and the NOPD.

The story opens with Andy and Kit being called to a crime scene in the New Orleans French Quarter. The body of a man has been discovered in a locker in Jackson Square, stabbed through the heart, with an eyelid removed and a newspaper propped on his chest with four scrabble letters taped to it. When a second body is found two days later with identical wounds, a newspaper and three scrabble letters, Andy and Kit fear a serial killer is stalking the town. Broussard and Kit are taken aback when what little evidence they have points to the killer being a colleague with a grudge, but with hundreds of forensic specialists in town attending the Annual American Academy of Forensic Science conference, narrowing the field of suspects isn’t going to be easy.

An interesting blend of police procedural and medical thriller, New Orleans Requiem is an enjoyable novel. The case at the heart of this mystery is well plotted and believable and the identity of the murderer came as a surprise. The pacing is good, with the duration of the conference providing a natural time frame in which to solve the mystery.

Broussard and Franklyn are well developed characters. An affable man with a large appetite, Broussard is an experienced and well regarded ME. Kit considers Andy both a colleague and a mentor. She has good instincts and is both resourceful and intelligent. Their professional skills complement each other and they make a good team.

First published in the early 1990’s the absence of ‘Google’ and cell phones are evident in some aspects of the novel but the story doesn’t feel dated. I’d recommend New Orleans Requiem to readers who enjoy procedural mysteries, especially those with a forensic focus (think Quincy, ME or CSI).

New Orleans Requiem  is available to purchase from

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Learn more about Don J. Donaldson and the Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn series in a  Q&A with the author posted on Book’d Out earlier today

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Feature: Q&A with Don J. Donaldson, author of the Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn series

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Q & A With Don J. Donaldson

Don J Donaldson is a retired professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology. His entire academic career was spent at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where he published dozens of papers on wound healing and taught microscopic anatomy to over 5,000 medical and dental students. He is also the author of seven published forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee with his wife and two West Highland Terriers. In the spring of most years he simply cannot stop buying new flowers and other plants for the couple’s backyard garden.

Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!

I was born and raised in Sylvania, Ohio, a little suburb of Toledo. It was a nice little town, where as a kid, I spent untold hours fishing in a nearby creek. My favorite spot was under a big poplar tree, whose roots formed a large tangle over the water. Through those roots, I caught many pumpkinseeds, a kind of bluegill with turquoise markings on the side and a bright orange belly. It was probably those beautiful fish as much as anything, that made me want to become a biology teacher.
But after college I discovered there weren’t many high school biology jobs to be had. I’d have to work my way up to that exalted position by first teaching ninth grade general science. I remember being surprised by that and being told by my university job placement officer, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” WHAT? I’m a college graduate and I’m now a beggar?
Okay, I’ll do it. General Science could be fun. And eventually, I’ll move up. Except I soon found that ninth graders aren’t interested in Science. Nor was that what they really needed. They needed someone to teach them how to be civilized human beings. Though I loved the kids, this wasn’t what I signed up for. That and the fact my wife and I couldn’t afford to pay our December utility bill, even though she too, was working, made me rethink things.
While taking a post-graduate course for science teachers, I ran into someone who pointed me in a new direction. Dr. Art Kato taught embryology like a detective story. He didn’t just tell us what was known about development, he talked about the experiments that revealed how a fertilized egg becomes a child and he spoke with passion about the men who did those experiments. I wanted to be like those men.
So, with Dr. Katoh’s help I got a graduate student fellowship in the Tulane Medical school department of Anatomy in New Orleans. Before leaving to start my new life, another member of the faculty at the public school where I taught came up to me and marveled about how brave I was to be “leaving all this” to become a student again. I guess he didn’t have any trouble paying his utility bills.
During my five years at Tulane I had no thoughts of writing novels. Memorizing thousands of anatomical facts and trying to carry out a research project worthy of a Ph.D. degree were all I could handle.
Then came two decades of teaching and research at the University of Tennessee Medical School. In all those years, I never thought about writing anything but research papers, grants, lectures, and test questions. Then one day, I woke up and thought… I want to write a novel. I have no idea where this insane idea came from. I call it insane because I had no training in writing fiction. They say there are more unfinished novels in this country than unmade beds. So chances were good that I’d never even complete one novel let alone get it published. I’m not going to tell you how long it took me to write that first novel because it’s embarrassing. But of course, I had a lot to learn. That book became, CAJUN NIGHTS the first of my seven Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn forensic mysteries.

How did you create your characters?

Long before I started that first novel, I attended a talk given by Dr. Bill Bass, the forensic anthropologist who created the real Body Farm, made so famous by Patricia Cornwell. In that talk Dr. Bass described some of the fascinating forensic cases he’d worked on over the years. This was well before forensics became such a prevalent part of popular culture, so I had never heard about such things. Later, when I got the urge to write a novel, there was no question that the main character just had to be someone in the field of anatomical forensics… like a medical examiner.
But I’m not a pathologist. So how could I write like one? Fortunately, one of my colleagues at the University was Dr. Jim Bell, the county ME. Jim generously agreed to let me hang out for a couple of weeks at the forensic center and follow him around, which I did. Sadly, Jim died unexpectedly a few months before that first book was published. Though he was an avid reader, Jim never got to see a word of the book he helped me with. In many ways, Jim lives on as Broussard. Broussard’s brilliant mind, his weight problem, his appreciation for fine food and antiques, his love for Louis L’Amour western novels and his good soul… that was Jim Bell.
Kit Franklyn was created as a naïve counterpoint to Broussard. I thought it would be interesting to see how a beautiful young woman working for a medical examiner as a suicide investigator would react to the horrors the office has to deal with. I also anticipated that through her relationship with Broussard I could show that mutual non-romantic love was possible between an unrelated man and woman of greatly differing ages. Though he’d never admit it, Broussard loves Kit like the daughter he never had. More open about her feelings, Kit loves Broussard like a father. Of course, being set in New Awlins, I also had to add a couple of eccentric Cajuns to the mix.

Tell us about your newest book? How did it get started?

After writing six books about Andy and Kit, I took some time off to try my hand at medical thrillers in which each book would have an entirely new set of characters. That turned into a four novel hiatus during which I thought I would probably never write about Andy and Kit again.
And for a long time, I didn’t. In fact, worn out from the rigors of creating so many characters and stories, I stopped writing for a while. But Andy and Kit remained a part of me, so much so that a few years after Hurricane Katrina, I began to wonder if it would be possible for Broussard to solve a crime in the aftermath of that storm. With the city in a shambles and no one where they would normally be, could it be done… could it be written? BAD KARMA IN THE BIG EASY is the result.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

My first piece of advice is to get copies of 10 best-selling books in the genre you like, and study them. Read carefully and try to figure out why they’re so compelling. That isn’t an easy thing to do, because in good books, you’ll get carried along in a scene and forget to analyze. That’s the time to stop and ask yourself how did the author draw me in like that? In time, you’ll begin to see techniques you can copy in your work. And this is one test where copying is perfectly okay.

What I said above applies to anyone who wants to write a novel. But here’s some advice for the younger aspirant:

I once heard a tattoo artist say that tattooing was all he wanted to do in life. So to make sure he’d be a success at it, he had his face tattooed, the idea being that looking as he does, he’d never be able to get any other kind of job. It would force him to be a successful artist. That’s certainly an admirable level of commitment, but what would he do if his eyesight failed, or getting body ink suddenly became unfashionable?
Writing is a brutally difficult profession. For decades it’s been nearly impossible to get an agent, let alone a book deal. Sure, with the new digital age and the advent of e-books and the many small publishers springing up, that’s changing to some extent. And now, Amazon even has a self-publishing program. But ultimately, you still have to generate a product that will sell books. To do that, a writer must be able to draw on first-hand experiences to create a compelling world that others want to share. My anatomy and research background enabled me to understand the science of forensics, and the technology behind the things I’ve written about in my medical thrillers. It also provided a decent income while I figured out how to write fiction. And if I had never been able to find a publisher for my work, or sold a single book, I could still have a rewarding life. So, yes… dream about writing that novel, and hone the necessary skills. But also become a policeman, or a carpenter, or a sewer inspector (yes, there is a mystery series with a sewer inspector as the main character). Figure out how to make a living that doesn’t require you to produce a best-selling novel. Then you’ll not only have a Plan B, but might even be able to work your “real life” world into your writing.

*******

Astor + Blue Editions is proud to present a heart-pounding new thriller by D.J. Donaldson, Bad Karma in The Big Easy!

Best-selling mystery author D.J. Donaldson (New Orleans Requiem, Louisiana Fever) invites readers back to the Bayou with his latest New Orleans adventure Bad Karma in the Big Easy. Plump and proud medical examiner Andy Broussard reunites with gorgeous psychologist Kit Franklyn as they face off with their most gruesome foe yet.

A killer lurks in The Big Easy, his victims found among the many bodies left in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Katrina. But with the city’s records destroyed, and the police force in complete disarray, Broussard must take matters into his own hands. Soon, he and his courageous sidekick, Kit, find themselves on a dangerous and labyrinthine journey through the storm-ravaged underbelly of the ever-mysterious and intensely seductive city of New Orleans; leading them to a predatory evil the likes of which they’ve never encountered.

Written in his uniquely brusque style, Donaldson’s Bad Karma combines hard-hitting, action-packed prose with a folksy, sweetly Southern charm. Add Donaldson’s brilliant first-hand knowledge of forensics and the sultry flavor of New Orleans, and the result is a first class forensic procedural within an irresistibly delectable mystery that will leave fans hungry for more.

*******

Bad Karma in the Big Easy is available to purchase from

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Review: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

 

 

Title: The House We Grew Up In

Author: Lisa Jewell

Published: Atria Books August 2012

Read an Extract

Status: Read from August 11 to 12, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“They lived in a honey-colored house that sat hard up against the pavement of a picture-postcard Cotswolds village and stretched out beyond into three-quarters of an acre of rambling half-kempt gardens. Their mother was a beautiful hippy called Lorelei with long tangled hair and sparkling green eyes who treated her children like precious gems. Their father was a sweet gangly man called Colin, who still looked like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish round-framed glasses. They all attended the village school, they ate home-cooked meals together every night, their extended family was warm and clever, there was money for parties and new paddling pools, but not quite enough for foreign travel, but it didn’t matter, because they lived in paradise.”

Lisa Jewell’s newest release, The House We Grew Up In, is a poignant and absorbing story about the Bird family. As children, Megan, Bethan and twins, Rory and Rhys, delighted in their mother’s sense of whimsy, the kitchen walls papered with their artwork, and the annual Easter egg hunt in the garden. But as adolescence strikes, the children have less patience for their mother’s eccentricities, and the family bond begins to chafe. When tragedy strikes one Easter Sunday the family is devastated and as each member struggles to make sense of it, they turn away from each other and eventually go their separate ways. Years later, the remaining Bird family members gather at the house they grew up in and are confronted by old hurts, resentments and unresolved guilt.

The House We Grew Up In spans a time frame of about thirty years and shifts back and forth to reveal the Bird’s past and present, unfurling a complex tale of a family fractured by suicide, betrayal, adultery and mental illness. Their childhood home, once a comfortable, cosy haven becomes the physical manifestation of the dysfunction and turmoil which affects the family.

Each individual has their own secrets to tell that are teased out over the course of the novel. Jewell’s characters are realistically portrayed, though their flaws, from Lorelei’s obsessive hoarding to Rory’s irresponsibility, are more clearly in focus. The dynamics that play out between the family, as well as various lovers and friends, are believable and observed with keen insight into the complications of these relationships.

Heartfelt, provocative and powerful The House We Grew Up In is an engaging novel, well crafted by an accomplished author.

 

The House We Grew Up In is available to purchase from

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Also reviewed on Book’d Out

 

Review: The Broken Places by Ace Atkins

 

Title: The Broken Places { Quinn Colson #3}

Author: Ace Atkins

Published: C&R: Allen & Unwin August 2014

Status: Read from August 11 to 14, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Broken Places is the third gripping book by Ace Atkins to feature former Army Ranger Quinn Colson, now Sheriff of Tebbehah County in rural northeast Mississippi.

“I say it’s hell being Sheriff in the same town as your family”

Colson has to admit his younger sister, Caddy, is looking healthier and happier than she has in years, but he can’t bring himself to trust it will last, especially since she has hooked up with pardoned ex-con turned preacher, Jamey Dixon. Convicted of murdering his girlfriend in a drug fueled rage, Dixon seems determined to prove he is a changed man, preaching forgiveness and redemption, but a trio of dangerous escaped criminals are headed Dixon’s way, and they intend to retrieve what they believe to be theirs, come hell or high water.

In a small town like Jericho, Colson’s personal and professional lives inevitably tangle and in The Broken Places this conflict is at the heart of the story. Caddy, having recently turned her own life around, is convinced Dixon deserves a second chance. Quinn doesn’t believe Dixon is a reformed man but is at a loss as to how to convince his sister she is making a mistake. As Colson stews about his sister’s love life, the town gossips about his regular meetings with county undertaker/coroner, Ophelia, unaware Anna-Lee, Quinn’s childhood sweetheart now married to someone else, makes regular visits to his bed.

Few of the characters in The Broken Places are either entirely good or bad, Colson included, and it is this ambiguity that makes them so interesting. The veracity of Dixon’s reform shifts as the story unfolds, and with the line between the truth and deception, lawfulness and justice often blurred, the reader is asked to make their own judgement about his, and others, behaviour.

Click for my review

There is plenty of fast paced action in this installment with the murderous escapees making their way to Jericho. The violence in the story is amplified by the storm bearing down on the town. When a violent tornado touches down, ripping through the county, the aftermath leaves some broken, and others free to start again.

Though Broken Places could conceivably be read as a stand alone, I wouldn’t recommend it as familiarity with the primary characters adds depth to the story. I have grown quite fond of the series and am looking forward to the next installment. There is a frustrating years delay between each installments publication in the US and the Commonwealth, so while the fourth book, The Forsaken, is already available in some markets, it will be May 2015 until I will be able to get my hands on it.

The Broken Places is available to purchase from

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Review: Nest by Inga Simpson

 

Title: Nest

Author: Inga Simpson

Published: Hachette July 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from July 26 to 27, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

After a relationship breakdown and the death of her mother, artist Jen Vogel has taken refuge in her childhood hometown. Here she is content to sketch and paint the birds that visit her garden, care for the land that embraces her property and tutor a talented local teen to supplement her income, but unpleasant memories are revived when a young girl goes missing on her way home from school. Nearly four decades earlier, Jen’s best friend Michael, and then her father, disappeared without a trace within days of each other and still there are no answers to what became of them.

Nest is a gentle book, sharing the quiet rhythms of Jen’s days and the turbulent memories of her past. It explores the themes of loss, grief, healing and growth, a cycle echoed in the environment in which Jen lives.

The mystery of the missing children, and Jen’s father’s whereabouts, adds interest and a frisson of tension to what is otherwise a fairly introspective narrative.

The language is evocative, with vivid observations of the flora and fauna that surrounds Jen’s bush haven. Jen has a particular fascination with birds, with robins being her favourite.

“The robins arrived last, splashing and fluffing, sending the other birds off. Their golden yellow was luminous at dusk, as if carrying the last gleams of the sun. Only now did they sing, with their sweet, piping whistle, and first thing in the morning. Their song was best suited to dusk and dawn – the in-between.”

Nest is a self possessed, thoughtful novel from Inga Simpson, author of Mr Wigg.

 

Nest is available to purchase from

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Review: Deadly Obsession by Karen M Davis

 

Title: Deadly Obsession {Detective Lexi Rogers #2}

Author: Karen M Davis

Published: Simon & Schuster August 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from August 05 to 07, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Deadly Obsession is the second crime novel from Karen M Davis to feature Detective Lexie Rogers.

In the early hours of the morning a woman’s body, clutching a long stemmed red rose, is discovered on Clovelly Beach. The empty packet of OxyContine in her pocket suggests a drug overdose as the cause of death but Lexie is sure the scene is staged. When the initial stages of the investigation implicates her ex-husband in the woman’s murder, Lexie is shocked, but as she and her partner, Brad Sommers, continue to dig they unearth a worrying chain of connections that for Lexie are too close to home.

Deadly Obsession is, in part, a police procedural, exposing Lexie and Brad’s investigation as they chase leads and search for evidence to identify the elusive killer, but also includes elements of psychological suspense, action and a touch of romance. The story is tightly plotted, though I thought the links between Lexie and the key characters were just a little too neat and convenient. My early suspicions regarding the murderer were proved right but I was swayed by the red herrings laid down by Davis at times and surprised by some of the connections that were eventually revealed.

sinister-intent-davisI am glad that Lexie seems less anxious in Deadly Obsession. Though still at risk from panic attacks related to previous events, and distressed by her recent break up with Josh (Detective Josh Harrison) who fled to Bali to bury himself in the bottle after the death of his sister, Jenna, Lexie is stronger and more focused. She works the case with attention to detail and stands up for herself against Brad’s doubts. I didn’t agree with all of her decisions though, some of which, like not reporting the threats made against her, seemed a bit disingenuous for a police officer.

While it isn’t strictly necessary to have read Sinister Intent before embarking on this sequel, I think it would be worth your time. A solid example of Australian crime fiction, Deadly Obsession is an enjoyable and engaging read and I look forward to seeing how Davis continues to develop the series.

Deadly Obsession is available to purchase from

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Review: Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

9781402281839

 

Title: Sweetshop of Dreams

Author: Jenny Colgan

Published: Sourcebooks Casablanca August 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from August 08 to 09, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

From Jenny Colgan comes another delicious tale of family, love and romance in her newest release, Sweetshop of Dreams.

If pressed, Rosie Hopkins will admit that she is in a bit of a rut, her career has stalled, and so it seems, has her relationship of seven years, but she can’t imagine how spending six weeks in rural Derbyshire will help matters any. However her elderly Great Aunt Lilian needs help and Rosie, an auxiliary nurse, is best placed to do so. Reluctantly Rosie travels to the small village of Lipton, determined to sort out her aunts affairs and return to London, and Gerard, as quickly as possible, but as she experiences the charms of country life, changeable weather and grumpy dentists notwithstanding, Rosie slowly discovers just how sweet life could be.

On her first day in Lipton, Rosie gets lost in the country side during a rainstorm, on her second she discovers her aunts sweetshop, which needs to be sold as a going concern to fund Lilian’s move into a nursing home, has been abandoned, and on her third she careens out of control on Lilian’s old bicycle, destroying a farmer’s vegetable patch and humiliating herself in front of a hunky farmhand and the handsome local doctor. Country life, Rosie is convinced, is not for her but as she begins to restore the sweetshop to its former glory and make friends with the locals, she begins to consider the choices she has made and reevaluate what would make her happy.

Entwined with Rosie’s adventures in Lipton are glimpses into Lillian’s past as a young woman and the regrets, disappointments and tragedies that shaped her life. This goes a long way to explaining Lilian’s sharp tongue, and gives the story a little more depth, emphasising the novel’s major theme of regret over the risks not taken.

Most readers of a certain age will fondly remember the sweets of their youth, my preference was for cobbers (caramel squares covered in milk chocolate) and lurid pink musk sticks, so Rosie’s refurbishment of Lilian’s sweetshop holds a great deal of nostalgic appeal. Colgan’s recipe additions for treats such as Coconut Ice, Peanut Brittle and Tablet (aka Scottish Fudge- which Jenny Colgan kindly shared with Book’d Out readers) are a welcome inclusion, and perfect to enjoy along with the book.

An engaging and charming story with few sour notes, Sweetshop of Dreams is an enjoyable novel and a sweet treat to savour.

Sweetshop of Dreams is available to purchase from

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Click on the image for Jenny Colgan’s recipe for Tablet (aka Scottish Fudge)

Tablet The Fudge House

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