Shelf Notes: Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary

Posted on April 15, 2016

Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary - click through for my reviewThis is the third in Sarah Hilary‘s DI Marnie Rose books and a series which was new to me – I must get hold of the first two at some point. I loved Marnie – caring, smart and formidable, exactly the type of cop you hope turns up if anything bad happens in your own life. Her Detective Sergeant, Noah Jake, is also interesting without being a tick-list of potential plotlines like so many sidekicks.

From the beginning, where a teenage runaway is befriended by a man who the reader knows at a visceral level is too good to be trusted, Sarah Hilary imbues the plot with a sense of fear, only increased as we realise just how malevolent this man, nick-named Harm, actually is. As the parent of a teenager it’s particularly chilling, especially when some of these girls start turning up dead.

I liked the depth of the backstory – Marnie’s foster brother who murdered her parents but still haunts her from prison and Noah’s own brother, troubled and on the fringes of gang culture. It will be interesting to see how those relationships develop in future books.

This is a great piece of crime writing – I’ll be happy if The Novel turns out a fraction as well. It’s hard-hitting without being puriently violent, has superbly drawn characters, a powerful use of language and a tight plot. Highly recommended.

If you’d like to know more about Sarah, then click through to read an interview with her on my blog.

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Shelf notes – The Daughter’s Secret by Eva Holland

Posted on November 16, 2015

The Daughter's Secret by Eva Holland. Click to read review When she was 15, Stephanie ran away with her 24 year old teacher, Nathan Temperley. Six years later, her mother discovers that Temperley is about to be released from prison, far sooner than expected.

The family have never talked about what happened, never dealt with the emotional fallout and neither parent has considered that their daughter may have become involved with Temperley because they were so self-involved (her father) and neurotic (her mother).

The story is told over several days, counting down to Temperley’s release, with fashbacks to the abduction, building the tension as the reader wonders what’s going to happen upon Temperley’s release. What happens is both inevitable and unexpected and the end of the book is left open and ambigious, asking the question of any mother reading: ‘What would you do?’

This is Eva Holland’s first book and was the winner of Good Housekeeping’s 2014 novel competition. I was intrigued by the central story – a girl I knew at college had a relationship with a teacher while she was still at school, his marriage broke up and she carried on seeing him for quite a long time. Even then, nearly thirty years ago, I didn’t see it as a forbidden romance but rather as someone who had abused their power. Today, that teacher would be in court and probably in prison, his career shattered. It’s interesting to see how children are protected better now and that predators are seen for what they are.

I really enjoyed the book and I’m sure that some of our Glenogle & Bell customers will too. I’m also looking forward to seeing what she writes next as this type of psychological family drama has a lot of potential.

You can read more book reviews and book-related posts over at my blog. As well as more random witterings.

Shelf notes – Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson

Posted on October 13, 2015

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson - click through to read my review

Orenda Books is a tiny publisher specialising in commercial but still literary, mainly crime, fiction and with a strong Scandinavian bias. Karen Sullivan, its MD, is an absolute tornado of enthusiasm and Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson is one of the handful of books she thrust into my hands at Bloody Scotland.

Set in Iceland, the story takes place in a small remote fishing village. It’s the sort of place where no-one locks their door and where everyone knows everyone else and it’s accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. The tunnel is blocked by an avalanche and the 24 hour darkness is beginning and Ari, a young policeman newly stationed in Siglufjorour, has to deal with two incidents and a growing sense of isolation. He soon realises that just because everyone knows each other, that doesn’t mean that it’s a happy community – quite the opposite in fact with many secrets lurking just beneath the surface. There’s a killer on the loose and Ari has no-one to help him.

The book is expertly plotted with a well-drawn cast of characters. It’s strong on atmosphere with the claustrophobic nature of life in this small community cut off from the rest of the world and full of snow and darkness captured beautifully. Although so modern in many ways, that isolated nature of the setting also echoes a more traditional style of crime fiction. Hugely satisfying and the first in a series so more to look forward to.

This review originally appeared on my blog where you can read more book and writing related posts plus more random ramblings…

Are you a re-reader?

Posted on February 6, 2014

I know people who never read a book twice. Even ones that they describe as life-changing.  Absolutely never. Personally, I can’t understand that and I have a small selection of books that I read again and again.  Some are just perfectly comforting and light and well-written and are ideal for when I’m feeling exhausted or have retired to bed with a cold, hot Ribena beside me.  Others are so beautifully constructed that every time I revisit them I discover a new layer of nuance or character that I’d missed before.

If you pop over to my personal blog, you can read about my favourites….

The pleasure of the familiar….

If Radio 4 was a bookseller….

Posted on November 21, 2013

It’s been two weeks since we launched Glenogle & Bell and the response has been wonderful.  One of the most satisfying things to hear is that with independent bookshop numbers shrinking – something I feel particularly sad about – our service means that readers will have the pleasure of an experienced bookseller who knows their tastes choosing a book for them each month.  That hand-selling was what I loved most about owning the bookshop and it’s what I miss most.  It’s enormously satisfying having a customer come back and tell you that they would never have chosen the book you suggested but that they absolutely loved it.  We were very proud of the bookshop and that same level of service, discernment and knowledge is what we want to exemplify here.

We had some lovely press coverage but here’s what The Guardian said about us, a year before we sold the shop. It sums up what we achieved there and want to do here:

“This is the kind of bookshop we’d all like to have in our neighbourhood. It’s a classy, beautiful space – all high ceilings, glass tables and original art on the walls – housing around 4,000 books, with a strong selection of Scottish titles and an exceptional children’s section, which has a bright mural. The emphasis is on unusual, intelligent and topical selections of new titles to give the stock a clever, eclectic mix. If Radio 4 was a bookshop, it would be like this. It’s a buzzy place, with regular author events, often featuring local writers such as Ian Rankin or Alexander McCall Smith, book groups for adults and children, and book swap evenings.”

Obviously, you’ll have to take my word that our office is “all high ceilings, glass tables and original art” (although it is) but I can promise exceptional children’s books, a strong selection of Scottish titles if you choose our Scottish fiction package and “unusual, intelligent and topical selections”.  If some online retailers are commercial radio – all jingles and insistent noise – we’re definitely a more Radio 4 kind of place. Although possibly not Quote, Unquote. We’re more fun than that!*

* apologies to fans of Quote, Unquote. There must be some surely…?

The Glenogle & Bell Book Co – back in the bookselling game

Posted on November 5, 2013

The Glenogle and Bell Book CompanyThe idea for The Glenogle & Bell Book Company came to me in the middle of the night, as these things often do.  Earlier in the day, I’d been in Waterstone’s and bumped into one of my former customers at The Edinburgh Bookshop. We fell into conversation and she told me how I’d always been so good at finding great books for her. We carried on talking about books and by the time we parted she had several in her hand as she headed for the cashdesk.  While I had no desire to work for anyone else, I didn’t think that freelance bookselling was the way forward. Family and friends had also been instructed that if I mentioned a desire to open another bookshop then they were to remind me of all the aspects I’d hated about owning a bookshop.

Browsing the internet at 3am on another insomnia-afflicted night, I found myself at the website of an American company that offered monthly book subscription packages.  I liked the idea and ferreted around a bit more and realised that this was exactly what I was good at, as well as making good use of the techie skills that Malcolm has. Looking around in the UK, I realised that although it was possible to find this sort of service, with our experience and knowledge we could offer a more bespoke service.  Although most of our subscription packages would be aimed at adults, in terms of children’s books, our background as well-regarded children’s booksellers meant that we could make a real difference to helping children to develop a love of books.

We made lists, did sums and talked to friends, publishers’ reps, authors, former customers and came to the conclusion that this had a lot of potential.  So, welcome to the online home of The Glenogle & Bell Book Company – suppliers of monthly book subscription packages.  There are six options for children from board books for babies to fantastic novels for teenagers. We have five fiction packages from crime to contemporary novels to classics and Scottish writing and a gorgeous option for poetry-lovers.  For those who prefer non-fiction there are four packages: food and drink, the great outdoors, gardening and history and biography.

When orders are placed, we ask for a few details which enable us to choose books for the lucky reader and every single book that goes out is individually chosen and beautifully wrapped. It’s the ideal gift, especially for godchildren and grandchildren if you’re not sure what children like reading or for people who love books but are difficult to choose for.  Or, if you never know what to read yourself, it’s the perfect treat – tell us as much as possible about your tastes and we will send you a book each month that isn’t obvious or predictable but which we’re sure you’ll love.

We hope you like what we’re doing. It certainly feels good to be back in the game!