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Black Roses Blog Tour: the Q&A

Here’s the second part of the Black Roses Blog Tour here on Adventures With Words, to celebrate the fact that Jane Thynne’s insightful and unusual novel is now out in paperback.

We were really pleased to have the opportunity to put a few questions to Jane about her choice to set the story in Berlin in the years leading up to World War Two, her characters Clara and Leo and why she decided to focus on the women behind the big names of the Third Reich.

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Nearly time for the Black Roses Blog Tour…

Adventures With Words is thrilled to be the first stop on the Black Roses Blog Tour, as Jane Thynne’s fascinating novel based in late-Thirties Berlin will soon be out in paper back.  We’ll be reposting Kate’s review of the book and we were lucky enough to be able to ask Jane some questions about it too – they’re coming up on the blog from 6pm tonight.

In the mean time, check out where else the blog tour is heading…

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Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer – review update

I first reviewed Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer last year, when we were lucky enough to receive a copy of the proof – as you can see from my review below I really enjoyed the book and Lydia’s originally – unique? – writing style.  Coming back to the book, for the release of the paperback edition, I think I enjoyed it even more.

This time, the relationship between Sunny and her mother really stood out to me – the tension between doing the best for yourself and doing the best for your children spoke to me even more strongly.  I also thought, again, more strongly this time, that the way in which Lydia evokes Maxon’s austistic nature was fascinating – it was quite amazing seeing the world, and space, through his eyes.  This time, I had tears in my eyes as I finished reading this beautiful, tragi-comic family drama. (more…)

Review: The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris

Can you let go of the past when you know what is in the future?
And when you know that every kiss is a countdown to goodbye?

This is the story of a love affair, of Ryan and Molly and how they fell in love and were torn apart.
The first time Molly kissed Ryan, she knew they’d be together forever.  Six years and thousands of kisses later she’s married to the man she loves.  But today, when Ryan kisses her, Molly realises how many of them she wasted because the future holds something which neither of them could have ever predicted…

Wow.  When I first picked up this book, at the A/W Bloggers event at Simon & Schuster, I could never have guessed the impact it would have on me.  That was my first ever Bloggers ‘do’, I was a bit overwhelmed by it all being relatively new to the book-blogging scene, so I picked up a bit of everything, including this, the kind of book I never thought I’d read.  I was encouraged by hearing Ali Harris talk about it first, during the Q&A at the beginning of the event.  She seemed intelligent, funny, sensitive – perhaps her brand of chicklit might have more about it than I previously gave the genre credit for.

Suffice it to say, I was blown away by this book.  Everything about the cover warned me to expect the worst – cliched sentimental slush – but those expectations couldn’t have been more wrong.

Immediately I identified with Molly, a clever but diffident young woman, lacking in self esteem, a little prickly, and she sometimes does make the wrong decisions but she is completely believable and sympathetic.  Ryan was an interesting character too – some people have described him as ‘too perfect’ but I actually think that’s wrong.  He is flawed, but his faults are being too agreeable, too family-orientated, too homey, all of which can be infuriating to an ambitious, focussed young woman who wants a career as well as a family.  Loving as he is, that’s not always ideal and I again deeply empathised with Molly as she negotiated a path between her desire for a soulmate and for a life of her own.

It was also really interesting reading a book set just down the road, in and around Southend.  I wouldn’t have thought of it as a natural setting for a romance but then again people fall in love all over the world, so why not the Essex coast?  Plus it was perfect for the sometimes-smothering family set-up that Ryan brings with him.

Structurally, the book was a great read.  The plot isn’t told in a linear fashion; there is a ‘now’ thread, as Molly seems to be moving out of her house, but the narrative then moves from this to various different significant ‘kisses’ from Molly’s life, mostly from her relationship with Ryan.  This was a great way to discover the story and allows Harris a great opportunity to take us on a rollercoaster of emotions, up to the heartbreaking twist, which I won’t spoil.

Oh god, the twist… I read the final 100 pages or so all in one go, in bed, with my other half next to me.  He turned around to see me with tears coursing down my cheeks – I think he was a bit shocked at how involved I’d become and, to be honest, so was I.  If you’re of a sensitive disposition, you will need to read this with some tissues handy.  It’s not quite on the scale of the first time I saw The Notebook, but it’s not far off.

I would highly recommend this book to all and sundry. It’s well written, intelligent and articulate, well-structured with plenty of suspense and empathy.  I’m looking forward to reading Miracle on Regents Street, Ali’s first novel, and to whatever she may write in the future…

Kate Neilan
@magic_kitten

Review: Cold Grave by Craig Robertson

A murder investigation frozen in time is beginning to melt…
November 1933.  Scotland is in the grip of the coldest winter in living memory and the Lake of Menteith is frozen over.  A young man and woman walk across the ice to the historic island of Inchmahome which lies in the middle of the lake.  Only the man comes back.
In the spring, as staff prepare the abbey ruins for summer visitors, they discover the unidentifiable remains of the body of a girl, her skull violently crushed.

Present day.  Retired detective Alan Narey is still haunted by the unsolved crime.  Desperate to relieve her father’s conscience, DS Rachel Narey returns to the Lake on Menteith and unofficially reopens the cold case.
With the help of police photographer Tony Winter, Rachel discovers that the one man her father had always suspected was the killer has recently died.  Risking her job and reputation, Narey prepares a dangerous gambit to uncover the killer’s identity – little knowing who that truly is.  Despite the freezing temperatures, the ice-cold case begins to thaw, and with it a tide of secrets long frozen in time is suddenly and shockingly unleashed.

Despite my penchant for Scandicrime, I rarely read British crime fiction, classic or modern, so I was interested to see what Craig Robertson had to offer in Cold Grave.  The cover is very striking, in black, white and blues, plus it’s set in Glasgow, somewhere I’ve visited, so my first impressions were good.  I was also intrigued by the story synopsis, as the crime in question was a ‘cold case’ – I was hoping for lots of mystery and intrigue.

By the end of the book, I wasn’t disappointed, as I found the story had good pace, plenty of action set in and around the seedier sides of ‘Glesga’ as well as up in the Highlands, and some quirky, interesting characters, particularly Tony Winter.  Whereas Rachel, nominally the protagonist, is sketched a little thinly, I got a really strong impression of Tony, with his ghoulish delight in gory crime scenes and his photographs of the best deaths he’d snapped displayed in his spare room.  

Initially, however, I wasn’t grabbed.  The book starts a little slowly for my liking; there is a prologue which sets up the disappearance of the girl, but I felt perhaps it could have been a little more sinister, and when we then meet Rachel and Tony in the next chapter, I found them, at first, a bit bland.  They appear to be off on a weekend away, there’s a lot of focus on issues in their relationship which then seem to be forgotten about, and there was something about the dialogue between them that didn’t always ring true.  This was something I noticed occasionally throughout the book, in fact.  I didn’t always feel the characters had distinctive ‘voices’, and every so often there was a little bit of Dan-Brown-esque telling of information that just didn’t strike me as the way in which people really speak.  I could be wrong, of course – before he became a novelist, Robertson was a journalist for 20 years with a Scottish Sunday newspaper, so he’s probably had more experience with Scottish detective sergeants than I have.

Am I glad that I kept reading, though?  Overall yes; once the wheels of the plot were turning at full speed, Cold Grave was a fun read for the summer holidays – I can imagine reading this on a lounger by the pool, basking in the sunshine while getting my teeth into the grimy, icy action.  This is a book on enjoy on its own merits; it’s not poetic literary prose, although it’s full of fascinating descriptions of blood, but it’s a pacey, well-plotted cop-drama, and sometimes that’s good enough.

Cold Grave is published by Simon & Schuster

Kate Neilan @magic_kitten