Book Buddle

Hi!

A slightly different post from me today as I wanted to share Book Buddle with you all.

Buddle is a protective cover for your books to stop them getting marked, dog eared or otherwise damaged when you’re on the go.  As someone who always (and I do mean always!) has a book with me, I’ve found this to be a real problem on occasion, depending upon the bag I’m using and what else I’m carrying with me, and so I was very much taken with the product when I first came across it on Twitter.

Book Buddle is the brain child of Jules Swain, who, having become fed up of her books being damaged, decided to do something about it.  From having made these covers for herself, friends and family, Jules now has her own shop on Etsy and is selling to the general public!

They are made from linen and cotton and have a foam padding, so your books really are well looked after.  I’m so taken with these that I already have three!

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Buddles currently come in both large and small sizes, although Jules is happy to custom-make these to fit Kindles etc.:

  • Small measures approx. 9″ by 7″, and will fit a standard sized paperback of up to 600 pages
  • Large measures approx. 11″ by 8.5″, and will fit a standard sized hardback of up to 600 pages

I can’t say that I’ve fully stress-tested them, but The Quick by Lauren Owen (a hardback of approx. 520 pages) and Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace (paperback of approx. 550 pages) both fit comfortably in the large and small Buddles respectively.

Jules has some great prints available, and is happy to be contacted directly if you have something specific in mind.

You can find Jules on Twitter at @bookbuddle and @julesbuddle and her shop is on Etsy.

Headline Blogger Night 2017

On Thursday, I was lucky enough to attend a blogger night hosted by Headline at Carmelite House on Victoria Embankment in London.  This was my second visit to the wonderful sixth floor of Carmelite House with it’s famous (amongst the blogging world at least) rooftop terrace, although the doors to the terrace were kept firmly shut due to the miserable weather.

I’m always quite nervous about attending these kinds of events – I often find it difficult to initiate a conversation with people I don’t know, and I don’t like inviting myself into a group, which is often the best way to start talking to people.

I needn’t have worried, however – the Headline team were extremely welcoming, and ushered people around to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to meet the authors in attendance.  Additionally, book bloggers are a lovely bunch of people, and I don’t think that anyone was left standing on their own for very long 🙂

I was absolutely delighted to meet Felicia Yap, who’s novel Yesterday will be published in August.  I picked up a sampler for this novel, and I can’t even tell you how excited I am.  I’m more than willing to beg for a proof of this when they become available!  And isn’t this cover glorious!?

yesterday

I also enjoyed meeting Gemma Todd, whose novel Defender I’m extremely excited about – it sounds very much like my kind of thing – as well as Colette McBeth, Nikola Scott, Mary Torjussen and Julia Crouch.

As well as the wonderful company, wine and nibbles, there were plenty of books available.  I felt that I showed considerable restraint in only picking up four titles (plus the one in the goodie bag!) – I was tempted to take more, but was conscious of the fact that I’d have to carry them back to the train.  Note to self – take a backpack next time.  Tote bags are great, but loading up on weighty tomes just gives you a bad shoulder, particularly when you have to run for your train!


These are the books that I picked up:

Defender by G. X. Todd

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In a world where long drinks are in short supply, a stranger listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road.

The moment locks them together.

Here and now it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice. Those who do, keep it quiet.

These voices have purpose.

And when Pilgrim meets Lacey, there is a reason. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Defender pulls you on a wild ride to a place where the voices in your head will save or slaughter you.


The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams

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The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold.  Now its streets are stalked by wolves.  Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip.  Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.

When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out.  Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.

But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war.  For the Jure’lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall…


An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth

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These are the facts I collect.

My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar.  She went home with him where they had sex.  They next morning she was found in an allotment.

Mariela is dead.

Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning

Linda Moscow: loving mother to Gabriel.  Linda promised herself years ago that she would never let her son down again.  Even if it means going against everything she believes in – she will do anything to protect him.  She owes him that much.

Gabriel Miller: the prodigal son.  He only ever wanted his mother’s love, but growing up he always seemed to do the wrong thing.  If his mother could only see the bad in him – how could he possibly be good?

How far will a mother go to save her son?  Linda’s decision might save Gabriel, but it will have a catastrophic impact on the lives of others.  What would you do if faced with the same impossible choice?


Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

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You leave for work one morning.  Another day in your normal life.

Until you come home to discover that your boyfriend has gone.  His belongings have disappeared.  He hasn’t been at work for weeks.  It’s as if he never existed.

But that’s not possible, is it?

And there is worse still to come.  Because just as you are searching for him, someone is also watching you.


As well as providing a selection of books for bloggers (and authors!) to help themselves to, goodie bags were also available containing some wonderful little treats, as well as another book!

Keep Me Safe by Daniela Sacerdoti

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When Anna’s partner walks away from their relationship, she is shattered.  But it is her little girl Ava who takes it hardest of all.  The six-year-old falls silent for three days.  When she does speak, her words are troubling.  Ava wants to go home.  To a place called Seal.  To her other mother.

Anna knows to unravel the mystery she must find Seal and take Ava there.  She hopes this tiny island will unlock her daughter’s memories.  But could it also offer a new life… and unexpected love… for Anna too?


Many thanks to Georgina Moore, Millie Seaward and the rest of the Headline crew for hosting such a lovely event.

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

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The End We Start From is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who goes into labour in the opening pages.  With a healthy baby delivered, she, her husband and their new-born child are forced to leave their home as London is submerged below flood waters.

They move from place to place seeking shelter and food whilst watching Z’s development as he grows, thriving despite the worsening conditions around him.

This is possibly the briefest synopsis I’ve written for a novel, and yet it says that all that needs to be said, and the brevity seems suitably in keeping with the novel which is a much slimmer volume than I expected.

The End We Start From is set in a flooded England.  The reason for the floods is unknown, the reader and the nameless narrator know only that:

the water is rising faster than they thought.  It is creeping faster.  A calculation error.

Many are forced to flee their homes seeking higher ground, and shelters are set up to give a home to those with nowhere else to go.  As resources begin to dwindle, there are hints at atrocities committed as people loot, pillage and stockpile goods for themselves and their families.  This always happens off screen however – the narrator is aware of it, and so, therefore, is the reader, yet we never come face to face with any of the violence that often occurs immediately after a disaster such as this.

Juxtaposed with this rather bleak setting is the narrator’s joy in Z, her new-born baby boy.  This aspect of the novel made it completely unique – there are tales set in the midst of an apocalypse and its aftermath that deal with childbearing, the raising of those children and the difficulties that this entails when our usual support networks are no longer available, but Hunter makes this a much more significant element of the story than most do.  I really enjoyed reading the catalogue of the baby’s “firsts” – the first smile, laugh, tooth etc. – and the gradual progression of Z against the backdrop of a world forced to a halt.

Stylistically, this novel won’t appeal to everyone.  It’s disjointed, with incredibly short paragraphs – if you can count the combinations of 2-3 sentences paragraphs at all, and the sentences are usually brief.  There’s not a single word of dialogue.  The only name mentioned is the baby’s – Zed, although this is only mentioned once – for the rest of the story it’s Z, just as all the other names are denoted by a single initial.  This might be confusing in any other novel, yet there are so few characters here that it’s not an issue.  Similarly, this is not a novel with answers, where everything is explained neatly by the final page.  Yet through the incredibly spare language, Hunter manages to convey so much.

The End We Start From manages to be simultaneously haunting and melancholy, yet also uplifting, and it is definitely a novel that will stay with me – I absolutely adored it.  An incredibly timely novel for our uncertain times which touches on both the impact of climate change as well as looking at the fate of refugees, The End We Start From conveys a message of hope at our capacity to continue and to adapt, whatever challenges we’re faced with.

The End We Start From will be published on 18 May 2017 by Picador – many thanks to Camilla Elsworthy for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ★★★★★

Blog Tour: City of Drowned Souls by Chris Lloyd – Author Spotlight

Today I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Chris Lloyd’s latest novel, City of Drowned Souls, the eBook of which is published today.

City of Drowned Souls is the third novel in Lloyd’s Elisenda Domènech Investigations series, and follows on from City of Good Death and City of Buried Ghosts.

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When a child disappears, the clock starts ticking

Detective Elisenda Domènech has had a tough few years.  The loss of her daughter and a team member; the constant battles against colleagues and judges; the harrowing murder investigations… But it’s about to get much worse.

When the son of a controversial local politician goes missing at election time, Elisenda is put on the case.  They simply must solve it.  Only the team also have to deal with a spate of horrifically violent break-ins.  People are being brutalised in their own homes and the public demands answers.

Could there be a connection?  Why is nobody giving a straight answer?  And where is Elisenda’s key informant, apparently vanished off the face of the earth?  With the body count threatening to increase and her place in the force on the line, the waters are rising…

Be careful not to drown.

The stunning new instalment of the gripping Elisenda Domènech crime thrillers for readers of Ian Rankin, Henning Mankell and Andrea Camilleri.

About the Book:


About the Series

City of Good Death

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An intense and brilliantly realised crime thriller set in the myth-soaked streets of Girona

A killer is targeting hate figures in the Catalan city of Girona – a loan shark, a corrupt priest, four thugs who have blighted the streets of the old quarter – leaving clues about his next victim through mysterious effigies left hung on a statue.  Each corpse is posed in a way whose meaning no one can fathom.  Which is precisely the point the murderer is trying to make.

Elisenda Domènech, the solitary and haunted head of the city’s newly-formed Serious Crime Unit, is determined to do all she can to stop the attacks.  She believes the attacker is drawing on the city’s legends to choose his targets, but her colleagues aren’t convinced and her investigation is blocked at every turn.

Battling against the increasing sympathy towards the killer displayed by the press, the public and even some of the police, she finds herself forced to question her own values.  But when the attacks start to include less deserving victims, the pressure is suddenly on Elisenda to stop him.  The question is: how?

About the Book:


City of Buried Ghosts

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Be careful what you dig up…

Still recovering from the tragedy that hit her team, Elisenda takes on a new case.  Except it’s not new.  On an archaeological dig by the coast a body is uncovered, seemingly executed with a spike thrust through the base of the skull – an ancient tribal ritual.  It soon becomes clear that this body is neither ancient nor modern, but a mysterious corpse from the 1980s.

Assigned to the case along with her team, Elisenda soon uncovers a complex world of star archaeologists, jealousy and missing persons.  They find a dark trade in illicit antiquities, riddled with vicious professional rivalries.  And even though she’s staying close to the crime scene, Elisenda is also never far from enemies of her own within the police force.

Just as the case seems to become clear it is blown wide-open by another horrific murder.  Elisenda must fight her personal demons and office politics, whilst continuing to uncover plots and hatreds that were long buried.  How far will she go to solve the crime?  Is her place in the force secure? And can she rebuild her life?

The atmospheric second crime thriller featuring Catalan detective Elisenda Domènech, for readers of Val McDermid and Ann Cleeves

About the Book:


About the Author

chris-lloyd-photo

Chris was born in an ambulance racing through a town he’s only returned to once and that’s probably what did it.  Soon after that, when he was about two months old, he moved with his family to West Africa, which pretty much sealed his expectation that life was one big exotic setting.  He later studied Spanish and French at university, and straight after graduating, he hopped on a bus from Cardiff to Catalonia where he stayed for the next twenty-four years, falling in love with the people, the country, the language and Barcelona Football Club, probably in that order.  Besides Catalonia, he’s also lived in Grenoble, the Basque Country and Madrid, teaching English, travel writing for Rough Guides and translating.  He now lives in South Wales, where he works as a writer and a Catalan and Spanish translator, returning to Catalonia as often as he can.

He writes the Elisenda Domènech series, featuring a police officer with the newly-devolved Catalan police force in the beautiful city of Girona.  The third book in the series, City of Drowned Souls, is published on 6 February 2017.

Website: http://www.cityofgooddeath.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chrislloydbcn


Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour:

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Kill the Father by Sandrone Dazieri

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Stefano Maugeri is out on a picnic with his wife and six-year-old son.  Falling asleep, he wakes to find no trace of them – just the remains of their al fresco meal.  Panicked, he searches for them before calling the police, and when they arrive, it doesn’t take them long to find his wife’s decapitated body.  Of his son, only his shoes have been left behind.  Convinced that Maugeri is responsible, the police arrest him, thinking it an open and shut case.

But one officer, Captain Rovere, isn’t convinced, and he encourages his Deputy Captain, Colomba Caselli – who has been out of action following a traumatic experience – to investigate, assisted by Dante Torre – a somewhat prickly individual who has proved himself to be an expert in finding missing people.

But Dante’s ability stems from a dark past – when he was six years old, he was kidnapped and held prisoner in a silo for 11 years by a man he only ever knew as the Father.  The police believed that the Father committed suicide following Dante’s escape, but Dante has never believed this, and has lived in fear ever since.

Beginning to investigate, and unable to avoid the obvious parallels between this case and Dante’s own past, Colomba and Dante begin to find hints that Dante’s worst fears are confirmed – the Father is still alive, and he’s still active.  But will anyone believe them?

The characterisation in Kill the Father is absolutely top-notch, and I loved the (largely platonic) relationship that develops between Colomba and Dante.  Both have troubled pasts – Dante from his time in the silo, which would have a significant effect on anyone, but also Colomba who has been off-duty, although not officially resigned, since a case nine months previous which resulted in “the Disaster”, as Colomba refers to it.  Unsure what her future holds, she now suffers from PTSD, and she controls her infrequent panic attacks as well as she can.  Their respective pasts mean that they form something of an unlikely bond, based partly upon the knowledge that each has suffered in ways that most of us are lucky enough not to.

Kill the Father is set in Dazieri’s native Italy, mostly in and around Rome.  Not a city that I’m familiar with, I thought that this was brilliantly evoked in the way that only a local person can – it gets beneath the glossy, tourist veneer, and presents the city as it would be to those who live there.  I also found the characters to be fiery and passionate, and (without wanting to stereotype) much as I would expect Italians to be.

At approximately 500 pages, this isn’t a quick read, and plot progresses relatively slowly to many novels where instant gratification seems to be the current trend.  I enjoyed this change of pace – there is so much detail in the novel, and the tension ebbs and flows as our protagonists encounter increasingly dangerous situations throughout the course of their investigation.  The killer always seems to be at least one step ahead of the duo, and there are several moments when I wasn’t sure that they were going to get out of whichever particular pickle they were in at the time.

Kill the Father is a brilliant police procedural set in Italy, and is the first of Sandrone Dazieri’s novels to be translated into English.  It will be published in hardback by Simon & Schuster on 9 February 2017, and is available to buy now as an eBook for the bargain price of £0.99 on Amazon Kindle.  Many thanks to Emma Finnigan for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Ragdoll is one of those books that has already attracted a lot of attention, despite having not been released yet, and I was absolutely thrilled when Ben Willis at Trapeze sent me a copy for review.

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the ‘ragdoll’.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

Given the description above, I was expecting this to be quite gory and graphic, but I didn’t find that to be the case.  There are a couple of scenes that the more squeamish might not get on with too well, but overall I wouldn’t let that stop you if this is one you’re considering reading – I really didn’t think it was that bad.

The characterisation in Ragdoll is wonderful, and Wolf is one of the best detectives I’ve come across in recent years.  Maverick doesn’t even begin to cover it, and he got into some serious trouble on a previous case.  Having only just been reinstated when the ragdoll killer strikes, you might think that he’d be on his best behaviour in order to make a good impression, but it very quickly becomes clear that he has no such intentions – he just carries on exactly as he did before.

Ragdoll started life as a screenplay, and that comes through quite strongly in the novel – it’s incredibly cinematic and very easy to picture on screen.  Oddly enough, having been rejected previously, the TV rights have now been snapped up, and I can’t wait to this portrayed on screen – I think it will be rather spectacular.

What surprised me most in Ragdoll was the humour.  I think it’s really hard to do humour well in this kind of novel, but Cole manages it brilliantly, and I was regularly chuckling at the witty one-liners dotted throughout the novel.  Needless to say, it is quite a dark humour, so may not be to everyone’s tastes, but I enjoyed it.

Ragdoll is a novel that I would have happily read in a single sitting, had life not intervened.  It’s fast-paced and incredibly entertaining.  If you like your crime / detective fiction to be plausible, this probably isn’t the novel for you – it reads more like a season of 24 than it does a “realistic” police procedural.  And that is in no way meant as a criticism – Ragdoll is so entertaining that I was more than happy to get swept along by its narrative.  This is a great read, and I can easily see it being a bestseller upon its publication.

Ragdoll will be published on 23 February by Trapeze – many thanks to Ben Willis for providing a copy for review.

Beat the Backlist Challenge Update

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Having decided to take part in Novel Knight’s Beat the Backlist Challenge, I thought that I would do a monthly update to share my progress, and more generally to look at the state of my TBR.

You can see my original post here, but as a reminder, Beat the Backlist is to encourage the review of older (i.e. pre-2017) titles that often get overlooked in favour of new releases – something that I’m often guilty of.  I decided that I would use this challenge of a way of reducing the number of titles that have been sat on the TBR for a while – essentially anything I bought / acquired prior to 2017.  At the start of the year, I had 47 titles eligible for the challenge, and during January I managed to read 5 of them:

  • Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
  • Pendulum by Adam Hamdy
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  • Snakewood by Adrian Selby – I haven’t reviewed this title because I didn’t finish it.  My view has always been that life is too short to force yourself to read a book you’re not enjoying (unless you have to for a course, for example).  My personal approach is to read at least 20% of a novel before giving up on it – I think that this is usually a sufficient amount of time to “get into it” if I’m not gripped from the first page.  To me, this also allows me to take it off the TBR pile.  Why didn’t I like it?  I found it to be too disjointed, which is a shame, as it’s a fantasy novel that is actually trying to do something new in the genre.  I may try again at some point, because I still like the idea of it, and I’m willing to accept that I just not have been in the mood for it at the time
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

So, my challenge table now stands at 42 titles!

TBR Watch

You might think that my overall TBR pile would have improved given that I’ve made a relatively good start on this challenge.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  Despite my best efforts not to purchase books or request new titles to review, there were a few that I couldn’t resist:

  • As at 1 Jan: 56 unread = 47 of my own books plus 9 to review
  • As at 1 Feb: 62 unread = 48 of my own books plus 14 to review

February is looking pretty busy with regard to review copies that I need to read, so I don’t think that I’ll make much progress on the challenge this month 😦

We’ll see how it goes!