Monthly Archives: June 2017

Mid-Year Review Book Tag nominated by @LoveBooksGroup

Massive thanks to Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group for nominating me to do this mid-year book tag. 2017 is whipping by and it’s interesting to reflect on which books I’ve enjoyed this year so far.

So, here goes…

  1. Best book you’ve read in 2017 so farYear of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Shonda, writer of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, challenged herself to say yes to every opportunity she was offered for a year. As an introvert who lacks self-confidence, I enjoyed this book immensely. I loved reading about Shonda’s writing process, her family life and her challenge. Oh, ok then, I loved it all. I’d love to hang out with this fierce woman.
  2. Best sequel you’ve read in 2017 so far: The Twenty-Three by Linwood Barclay. I read the three books from the Promise Falls trilogy this year. Linwood Barclay is my favourite crime writer and I was impressed with the way the final instalment tied things up.
  3. New release not yet read: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.
  4. Most anticipated release of the second half of 2017: A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena. 
  5. Biggest disappointment of 2017: Thankfully I haven’t had one yet!
  6. Biggest surprise of 2017: Exquisite by Sarah Stovell. I first heard Sarah talk at Newcastle Noir this year and I was so taken in with the themes she talked about that I just had to read ExquisiteIt was a surprise because I hadn’t heard anything about it prior to Newcastle Noir. It’s a story that keeps you second guessing until the very end – very cleverly done. 

  7. Favourite new author: Bizarrely, I’d never read Stephen King until 2017 but I read Bazaar of Bad Dreams which is a collection of short stories. I think I bought it because it was on offer and I liked the look of the cover – yes, I did judge a book by its cover – but when I read it, I really enjoyed the stories.
    In fairness, though, Matt Wesolowski is my favourite new author. I want to tweet him every day and ask when we can expect his next novel.
  8. Newest fictional crush: Haven’t got one as I’m pretty taken with my husband – we got married in March this year. 
  9. Newest favourite character: Archie from Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland. Everyone should have an Archie in their life.
  10. Book that made you cry: Year of Yes and Lost for Words.
  11. Book that made you happy: Year of Yes.
  12. Best book to movie adaptation of 2017: I haven’t seen any film adaptations although I’m looking forward to seeing My Cousin Rachel. I am loving The Handmaid’s Tale which is currently being shown on Channel 4.
  13. Favourite review you’ve written in 2017 so far: Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski. The book just really captured my imagination and I loved writing about it. 
  14. The most beautiful book you bought / received in 2017: The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards. I bought it for myself last weekend at Barter Books. I just love the colours and shading on it. As previously mentioned, Bazaar of Bad Dreams is also a very colourful book. I think this has established how vacuous I am.
  15. Books to read by the end of 2017: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Girls by Emma ClineIt Devours: A Night Vale Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout… The list goes on. I’d also like to read more Agatha Christie. 

I’m passing the Mid-Year Review Book tag onto Emma Welton @damppebbles, Juliet @bookliterat and Sheila Howes @thequietgeordie. I look forward to finding out what you choose!

Vic x

 

Review: ‘The Escape’ by CL Taylor

Following C.L. Taylor’s appearance at Newcastle Noir in April, I downloaded The Escape as I thought the premise sounded interesting. I wasn’t disappointed.

A stranger asks Jo for a lift and Jo, too polite to refuse, acquiesces but quickly wishes she hadn’t when the stranger reveals that she knows Jo’s name, Jo’s husband’s name and also has a mitten belonging to Elise, Jo’s little girl. A warning is issued and things quickly spiral with the authorities involved and Jo’s husband Max turning against her.

The Escape deals with a number of issues which give this novel real depth. It’s such a cracking yarn that I found The Escape difficult to put down.

I will definitely be seeking out more of C.L. Taylor’s work.

Vic x

Review: ‘Black Wood’ by SJI Holliday

When Jo and Claire were young, they were involved in a life-changing incident. When a familiar face arrives at the bookshop where Jo works, the painful memories that left her friend wheelchair-bound are stirred up – as is her lust for revenge. Meanwhile, the small town of Banktoun is shocked by the appearance of a masked man who is terrorising women on the disused railway. We’re introduced to Sergeant Davey Gray who links the current

Black Wood is SJI Holliday’s debut novel and it twists and turns like you wouldn’t believe! The characters in this book are believable which makes it all the more unnerving. Told through a split narrative, Black Wood describes the events that changed Jo and Claire’s lives. It’s pacey and tremendously atmospheric and the layers within Black Wood add real pathos.

I’m really looking forward to visiting Banktoun again soon, I’ve got Willow Walk – the follow-up to Black Wood – on my TBR pile.

Vic x

Coming soon…

I’m delighted to announce that, with a little help from some friends, I am taking Noir at the Bar back to Harrogate in July this year.
Thanks to Jacky Collins of Newcastle Noir and writers Lucy Cameron and Neil Broadfoot, I can announce that we’ll be running Noir at the Bar on Thursday, 20th July from 4:30pm. 
Hosted at the noir-y Blues Bar on Montpellier Parade, Noir at the Bar Harrogate will not only feature readings from up-and-coming authors as well as more familiar faces but there will be a special performance by the Slice Girls!
Entry is free and doors open at 4pm. There will be opportunities to win books by picking a reader out of the hat.
Hope to see you there,

Vic x

Review: ‘Block 46’ by Johana Gustawsson

The mutilated corpse of a jewellery designer is discovered in a harbour in a Swedish marina while a young boy’s body is found in London with similar wounds around the same time. Emily Roy, a Canadian profiler on loan to Scotland Yard, begins to investigate the case alongside French true crime writer Alexis Castells. As the story continues, Roy and Castells uncover evidence to suggest that there may be a link between these murders and the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

Written by Johana Gustawsson, and translated into English by Maxim Jakubowski, Block 46 is a tense thriller which unravels slowly but masterfully. The chapters are choppy and keep the plot moving along nicely. The language used throughout the book is beautiful which juxtaposes the violence of the murders well.

The plot is utterly intriguing and I can see how the partnership of Roy and Castells could be turned into a successful series – there are plenty of narrative strands that could be explored further.

When I saw Johana Gustawsson talk about Block 46 at Newcastle Noir, I saw that the subject had deeply affected her and I couldn’t wait to read this book. The fact that Gustawsson has weaved present-day narratives with an historical element makes this a really unique novel. A must-read.

Vic x

Guest Post: Sue Miller on trying to make the world a better place.

As most of you know, I am responsible for the Newcastle leg of Noir at the Bar – and I love it. One of the best things about hosting NATB is how many new writers I get to meet. Thanks to my friend Chris Ord, I was introduced to Sue Miller, another local writer. 

Sue read for us at Noir at the Bar earlier this year and I’m delighted to host her on the blog. Sue likes to use her writing to affect social change so she’s here today to talk to us about trying to make the world a better place. 

Thanks to Sue for sharing her insights with us.

Vic x

 

Sue Miller on trying to make the world a better place.

The title: 20/20 Vision: They didn’t see it coming isn’t just a play on words. I fully expected 2020 would be the year of the next election.


I dedicated the book to my newborn grandson. I hoped that the world he will grow up in will be a safe and loving place. But I wasn’t optimistic. I wanted to do something.

I thought about writing articles. I worked hard to make things better in my community. I cared as best I could for my family and friends. In the end I thought I’d try to bring my concerns together into a story. Maybe that would be a way to be heard because:

  • we always have choices.
  • if we don’t address issues of what’s fair and what’s right now, what are we bequeathing to our children?
  • there are enough resources to go round, if we manage them responsibly
  • I sensed a growing narrative with winners and losers, where ‘rights’ were becoming ‘entitlements’, borders and barriers were going up between ourselves and those we labelled as not ‘like us.’

I was in a very dark place, struggling to find optimism for the future, despairing of the choices of cuts, the short sightedness of activity around me. Not that I was perfect.

This was before Brexit and before Trump. Before the calling of an election designed to ‘strengthen our hand’ in negotiations with people that were once partners and friends. I didn’t see any of those coming.

The worlds of traditional and social media are currently full of the noise of pre-election promises. I’m weary of it already.  What I’m hearing are promises, when history teaches us words are cheap, it’s actions that cost.

People who know me well were shocked by just how dark 20/20 Vision is in places. The story reflects where I continue to be every time I turn on the news, tune into social media; Facebook-there’s a mixed blessing. One of my book reviews says we live at a time when people think they’ve done their bit simply by clicking on ‘like’. In a country where free education is available for all I’m aghast at the low level of some of the commentary there. Words are easy, the real challenge is to think, listen and act.

History tells us it is hard to hope, we will always snatch those resources to which we believe we are entitled. We can choose to take from those we think of as ‘different’ to preserve those we perceive as ‘our own’. What of fairness? What of love?

My next book has a working title: Border Control. That’s all I see coming now.

Sue Miller

Noir at the Bar Edinburgh, 31/05/2017

In November of last year, I read at the first Edinburgh Noir at the Bar. Earlier this week, I returned to give another reading and, yet again, it was a wonderful night.


Many of the participants attended a meal prior to the event at Makars Gourmet Mash Bar which was organised by the lovely Kelly of Love Books Group blog.  The meal itself was delicious – I had ox cheek and creamy mash – and it was lovely to meet new people as well as catching up with others. The staff were really attentive and I’d heartily recommend this fantastic place if you happen to be in Edinburgh.


Hosted by Jacky Collins, and held at Wash Bar, Noir at the Bar Edinburgh sure is attracting a following in Auld Reekie – the number of attendees has grown massively since its first outing in November.

Mac Logan was first to read then it was my very good friend Lucy Cameron reading from her debut novel Night is Watching.

Then some Geordie got up and read a piece from her work in progress. The audience were very kind and laughed in all the right places. I got some brilliant feedback during the break. It’s really reassuring to hear that fans of crime are looking forward to reading my novel so I’d best crack on with it! As an aside, I will be writing soon about a method that I have found really works for me: watch this space!


I was glad that I’d read early, it left me free to enjoy the evening free of any nerves. Neil Broadfoot, Ian Skewis and May Rinaldi entertained the audience with readings that left my reading wishlist growing exponentially.

Aly Monroe read from Black Bear then we had a riotous short story by Doug Johnstone followed swiftly by a song.

Sharon Bairden and I at Noir at the Bar Edinburgh. Photo courtesy of Sharon Bairden.

Following another short break, during which I got to catch up with some more folks, Sara Sheridan kicked off the third act with an intriguing reading. Claire MacLeary followed with a great excerpt from Cross Purpose featuring the fantastic character of Big Wilma. CG Huntley was the final reader on the bill but there were two wildcard readings given by Jackie McLean and LP Mennock.


A huge congratulations to my friend Jacky Collins for another successful evening in Edinburgh. Jacky and I may have some exciting news to share with you very soon…

Vic x