The Smell of Cedar by River Dixon (Review)

The Smell of Cedar by River Dixon

Trigger warning: Male rape, child abuse, torture

About the author

When once asked for an author bio, River Dixon was quoted as saying, “Life is pretty good these days. But that doesn’t mean I don’t remember. It’s quite easy, too easy, to slip back to what once was, realizing it still is. Fortunately, I have the knowledge that there is an underlying hope in all this, and that is one of the greatest gifts the years have given me.”

When asked what she thought of his writing, his wife answered, “I don’t know, he puts his soup in the freezer and ice cream in the microwave. I think that just about says it all.”

River Dixon and his family are currently trapped in the incessant heat and beauty of Arizona.

Blurb

Sarah’s day was already off to a bad start when the arrival of a strange package from an unknown sender sent her spiralling into a state of paranoia. Memories of a tortured childhood in her grandmother’s care taunt her as she tries to piece together the events of the past few months—the events that have led up to this day. She’s convinced that a killer is coming for her, and it’s become a race against time and madness to figure out who is pulling the strings in this game of hunt or be hunted.

Review

I saw this book on a fellow blogger’s site and thought it sounded really good so I immediately downloaded it on the Kindle and started to read it. Oh how misleading the blurb is.

The beginning of the book started off well and I was hooked but then it went downhill fast and I was also left with a few unanswered questions which I also found annoying. The character Sarah has a great deal of issues and they are not her fault. Her grandmother created what Sarah is today and you can’t help but feel sorry for Sarah when reading Sarah’s flashbacks of her life with her grandmother.

However, Sarah as an adult is a different kettle of fish. It all starts off so normal but then it spirals quickly. Towards the end of this book I will be honest I had to skim read certain parts just to make sure I could sleep that night and also not throw up.

I will say that this book has probably upset me more than any other book I have read. I can’t even say I recommend it and that does not often happen and I always try to find a positive with a book and give it a chance. The book was well written and does hook you in but it really was not my cup of tea and I wish to forget it as soon as possible.

A disturbing read that I only give 1 Dragon to.

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Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Review)

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

About the author

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Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of several novels, including Gods of Jade and Shadow. She has also edited a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination.

Blurb

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Review

I have seen so many reviews of this book and it has featured on my instagram account a great deal so I thought it was high time I gave it a read. Thankfully I was not disappointed.

The first few chapters of the book I will be honest had me slightly worried as it seemed to be heading down a predictable route and to a certain extent it was what I was predicting but with a twist and I’m so pleased I read it till the end.

Neomi is a true socialite who is used to getting her own way in the world. She has her father wrapped around her little finger and she knows how to get a man to do anything for her. She is beautiful and stylish but no simpleton, she is highly educated and I love the fact she has so many opportunities to show her knowledge.

Francis is such a sweetie all he wants to do is help Neomi but he is constrained by his family. He’s so shy and has clearly led a very sheltered life, he has never met a woman like Neomi before in his life and it is clear he finds her fascinating. I really loved Francis’ character and loved getting to know his character.

High Place is a mystery and a mouldy one at that, it really sounds like a nightmare to live in but the people who call it home do not seem to mind the state of place but Neomi notices it. The mould on the walls, the lack of reliable electricity and hot water and the fact that the curtains remain closed can not help the situation. It really must be a dismal place to live and seems like something from a gothic novel to Neomi.

The character I did not like was Virgil as he was clearly a bully and a very slimy character. He is described as handsome but his character does not reflect that. Florence, Francis’ mother, is also a nasty lady but at the same time I felt sorry for her. Florence clearly tried to change her future and clearly had a happier past but now she is a different woman left with broken dreams. You see snippets of this through the book.

I really enjoyed reading this book, oh and I love the cover of the book. I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but the cover really is eye catching. The storyline for this book is brilliantly written and cleverly thought out. I will definitely be reading Moreno-Garcia’s other books. I give this book 4 out 5 Dragons.

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Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz (Review)

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

About the author

Anthony Horowitz, OBE is ranked alongside Enid Blyton and Mark A. Cooper as “The most original and best spy-kids authors of the century.” (New York Times). Anthony has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he is also the writer and creator of award winning detective series Foyle’s War, and more recently event drama Collision, among his other television works he has written episodes for Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. Anthony became patron to East Anglia Children’s Hospices in 2009.

Blurb

Featuring his famous literary detective Atticus Pund and Susan Ryeland, hero of the worldwide bestseller Magpie Murders, a brilliantly complex literary thriller by Anthony Horowitz. The follow-up to Magpie Murders.

Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is living the good life. She is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her longterm boyfriend Andreas. It should be everything she’s always wanted – but is it? She’s exhausted with the responsibilities of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, and truth be told she’s beginning to miss her old life in London.

And then a couple – the Trehearnes – come to stay, and the story they tell about an unfortunate murder that took place on the same day and in the same hotel in which their daughter was married, is such a strange and mysterious one that Susan finds herself increasingly fascinated by it. And when the Trehearnes tell her that their daughter is now missing, Susan knows that she must return to London and find out what really happened …

Review

I was so excited about this book as I love Anthony Horowitz’s books, sadly I was sorely disappointed with this book. I will be honest I haven’t read Magpie Murders but after this I don’t think I will because I just can’t stand Susan Ryeland!

I tried so hard to like Susan Ryeland but she just grated on my nerves endlessly. She came across as a massive pain in the neck with no real skill who just got under everyone’s feet and she also came across as very selfish.

What saved this book for me was the wonderful story within the story. Atticus Pund Takes the Case was a wonderful read. I could not stop reading it. Atticus is a fantastic character and very much a detective from the golden age of detective novels. He could be straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. The story was brilliantly written and I loved how it all came together at the end.

All in all the Susan Ryeland story is just too unbelievable for me and I really did not enjoy reading that part of the story but I’m so pleased I did not give up because otherwise I would have missed out on the Atticus Pund story. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons but those 3 Dragons are for the Atticus Pund story as I wouldn’t have even bothered rating the Susan Ryeland part sadly.

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The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

About the author

Homer is the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. There are loads of legends regarding the life of Homer however, what we can definitely confirm about him is his centrality to ancient Greek culture.

About the translator

Emily Wilson is a professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Blurb

Composed at the rosy-fingered dawn of world literature almost three millennia ago, The Odyssey is a poem about violence and the aftermath of war; about wealth, poverty and power; about marriage and family; about travelers, hospitality, and the yearning for home.

This fresh, authoritative translation captures the beauty of this ancient poem as well as the drama of its narrative. Its characters are unforgettable, none more so than the “complicated” hero himself, a man of many disguises, many tricks, and many moods, who emerges in this version as a more fully rounded human being than ever before.

Written in iambic pentameter verse and a vivid, contemporary idiom, Emily Wilson’s Odyssey sings with a voice that echoes Homer’s music; matching the number of lines in the Greek original, the poem sails along at Homer’s swift, smooth pace.

A fascinating, informative introduction explores the Bronze Age milieu that produced the epic, the poem’s major themes, the controversies about its origins, and the unparalleled scope of its impact and influence. Maps drawn especially for this volume, a pronunciation glossary, and extensive notes and summaries of each book make this is an Odyssey that will be treasured by a new generation of readers.

Review

The Odyssey is one of history’s greatest stories and you can see why. It has monsters, fighting, adventure, gods, violence and much more. It does not stay still for a moment and  Wilson’s translation keeps the story fluid and easy to read.

The introduction by Wilson was fantastic and I could not put it down. I will admit sometimes I struggle with introductions to books mainly because sometimes the people who write them always come across as rather stuck up and they love to use extremely long words which are just not necessary. Wilson however writes an amazingly informative introduction that is interesting and keeps you hooked on every word. It was a joy to read and left me excited to start the epic poem. I also enjoyed the translator’s notes as it really showed how Wilson translated the poem and why she did certain things.

The poem was equally as good and again I could not put it down. It is a tale well known and has been translated by many different people through the years and many versions have been published. This translation in my opinion was stunning. It kept the flow of the poem and was almost song like to read which fit well as they think originally it would have been told orally.

Odysseus has a seriously rough deal. He spent 10 years at war in Troy and then he can’t get home. His journey is filled with monsters, women who want him as husband, and the loss of his men. Odysseus is cunning though and uses his skills at lying to get him out of problems with a little help from certain gods.

I highly recommend this book to people with a classical background and to people who have never read a classical book and want to try one. It is such a good read and one I will happily read again. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (Review)

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

About the author

Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being within reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.

You’ll usually find her curled up with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).

Blurb

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast.

Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash.

Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly-imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

Review

This book was recommended to me by my best friend and so I bought a copy as soon as I could and I am so pleased I did. I started reading this book and read a bit a day until I got about a quarter of the way through and then I just could not put it down and I binged the whole book in one afternoon.

The book is told from Tiffy’s and Leon’s perspective and it is really interesting seeing their different perspectives. Leon is very shy who needs quiet and alone time to process things but Tiffy is the complete opposite: she has to talk to her friends to process things and thrives on noise and people.

Tiffy and Leon communicate via post-it notes that they post all over the flat and through this method of communication they get to know each other and they also help each other through their troubles. Tiffy has problems which revolve around her ex-boyfriend but with Leon and her friends’ help she is working through these problems.

Leon also has problems of his own in the fact that his brother is in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Leon is a palliative care nurse who spends all his time trying to help and care for everyone.

This novel deals with some difficult issues but O’Leary writes about this in a sensitive and realistic manner and is very respectful. This novel was a big surprise to me as I was expecting something a lot more light hearted and chick lit read but in fact it had depth and understanding. O’Leary is a talented writer and I really look forward to reading more of her books. I rate this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Too Good To Be True by Ann Cleeves (Review)

Too Good To Be True by Ann Cleeves

About the author

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Ann Cleeves was born in 1954 and is an English crime writer. She has won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger and her Vera and Jimmy Perez novels have been dramatised as TV detective series. She currently resides in Whitley Bay.

Blurb

Too Good To Be True is a gripping Quick Read from Ann Cleeves, featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez from the bestselling Shetland series.

When young teacher Anna Blackwell is found dead in her home, the police think her death was suicide or a tragic accident. After all, Stonebridge is a quiet country village in the Scottish Borders, where murders just don’t happen.

But Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez soon arrives from far-away Shetland when his ex-wife, Sarah, asks him to look into the case. The local gossips are saying that her new husband, Tom, was having an affair with Anna. Could Tom have been involved with her death? Sarah refuses to believe it – but needs proof.

Anna had been a teacher. She must have loved kids. Would she kill herself knowing there was nobody to look after her daughter? She had seemed happier than ever before she died. And to Perez, this suggests not suicide, but murder . . .

Review

I love the Quick Reads books and have discovered quite a few authors that I enjoy from reading books from this series and this book is no exception. My parents are massive Ann Cleeves fans but I will be honest I have never read any of her books but looking for a short read for the weekend I came across this book and promptly began reading.

Although this is only a short book and I easily read it in one setting I really liked the character of Jimmy Perez and would love to read more books about this character. He worked out the case brilliantly even though the policeman who was in charge of the case missed some pretty obvious things and really should have had his wrists slapped for his sloppy policing and just jumping to the easiest conclusion. Perez is obviously a deeply caring person who will do anything for family and that was really moving to read about even if it was only hinted at.

The story contains the question of was it a suicide or a murder and Perez is left to work it out but as he is trying to unravel the mystery there is a sinister figure that is clearly watching him.

This story had everything: mystery, suspense, crime and much more. I loved this book and will definitely be reading more by Ann Cleeves, hopefully the parents will allow me to borrow some of their copies. A fantastic short read that I read in one sitting and I highly recommend to all crime fiction fans. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Summer of Madness by Alexander Raphael (Review)

The Summer of Madness by Alexander Raphael

About the author

Alexander Raphael was born and bred in London, though as he is half-Mexican grew up with an awareness and understanding of other cultures from a young age.

He’s always been a big fan of short stories in particular.

Blurb

In the summer of love, or rather of madness, a whole set of stories are emerging. But there is one that has got everyone talking. When Kurt decides to win back his ex-girlfriend with the help of a literary classic, he sets off a string of events that will build to a dramatic finale.

Review

I spotted this story on Hayley’s blog Rather Too Fond of Books and was very intrigued so I downloaded it straight to my Kindle for a weekend read as I do enjoy a short story.

At only 27 pages I read this in one sitting and absolutely loved it. This short story is about a man who has taken his girlfriend for granted and has now lost her and he is doing everything in his power to get her back. After everything else has failed he has one final go to win her back with a grand gesture.

This short story is beautifully written and was a joy to read. I adored the use of Wuthering Heights in the book as it is one of my all time favourite books. The plot was really clever and unlike anything I have read before. I really liked the character Judy and was really hoping she would get her dream come true.

The ending of this book left me smiling from ear to ear and thoroughly pleased that I had read the book. I highly recommend this short story to everyone, it will take less than half an hour to read and was a true page turner. I give this short story 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths (ARC Review)

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

About the author

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Elly Griffiths was born in London and began her career in publishing, she then turned to writing full time. In 2016 she won the CWA Dagger in the Library for her work. Griffiths lives in Brighton with her family and the cat Gus.

Blurb

PS: thanks for the murders.

The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should absolutely not be suspicious. DS Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing to concern her in carer Natalka’s account of Peggy Smith’s death.

But when Natalka reveals that Peggy lied about her heart condition and that she had been sure someone was following her…

And that Peggy Smith had been a ‘murder consultant’ who plotted deaths for authors, and knew more about murder than anyone has any right to…

And when clearing out Peggy’s flat ends in Natalka being held at gunpoint by a masked figure…

Well then DS Harbinder Kaur thinks that maybe there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.

Review

This is my first non-Dr Ruth Galloway book from Griffiths and I was so excited when I discovered I had been granted my request to read it on NetGalley.

Peggy Smith has died but has she been murdered? Peggy is also a ‘murder consultant’ who helps authors with the crime writing. As the story goes on more murders happen and the mystery thickens.

I’m not sure why but I struggled to get into this book and it just did not move along as I would have liked it to. I really liked the characters Harbinder and Neil and really liked their working relationship. However I disliked her repeatedly comparing Neil to a type of animal and thought it was unnecessary and rather mean of her. I also enjoyed the fact Harbinder still lived at home with her parents and the family dog Sultan.

The character that really grated on my nerves was Natalka. She really drove me insane. I found her very arrogant and self centred. I didn’t mind Benedict and Edwin and thought that they were both interesting and rather endearing characters, especially Benedict who was once a monk and now owns a coffee shop. But the whole concept of Natalka, Benedict and Edwin running off trying to solve the crime just came across as ridiculous and really they should have been arrested for meddling in a murder case. I think it was the whole storyline of this book that put me off as it did just come across as all a bit fanciful.

I still liked elements of this book and will admit I did not see the conclusion of the book at all. I will read the first book with Harbinder in and give the series another shot but sadly this book was just not for me. I only give the book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

Thank you to NetGalley and Quercus Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

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Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir (Review)

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir

About the author

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Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

Blurb

The woman haunted by the fate of her predecessor.

Eleven days after the death of Anne Boleyn, Jane is dressing for her wedding to the King. She has witnessed at first hand how courtly play can quickly turn to danger and knows she must bear a son … or face ruin.

This new Queen must therefore step out from the shadows cast by Katherine and Anne. In doing so, can she expose a gentler side to the brutal King?

Jane Seymour. The third of Henry’s Queens. Her story.

Review

I will be honest straight away this is my favourite book so far from the Six Tudor Queens series by Weir and possibly the best book I have read so far this year. I could not put this book down and absolutely loved it!

The first thing I love about this book and the previous two is how the books entwine and you get to see the same scene but from different Queens’ perspectives. I love the different perspectives seen and the different feelings expressed about the same situation. This also shows the back stabbing nature of the court and how lethal it can be just dabbling in idle gossip.

Weir shows Jane Seymour as a wonderful character in this book and the way I always like to think of Jane Seymour. Jane is a timid, good natured creature, who has a deep faith and worries for her soul. Some people think Jane is the boring queen but I think she was a wonderful breath of fresh air after Anne Boleyn. Jane is a complete opposite of Anne Boleyn and that is what attracts Henry to her and although she doesn’t argue with him she has a deep inner strength. She gets the Princess Mary back to court and always tries to get Henry to do the right thing.

The description of Jane’s family home and family life before she goes to court is wonderfully detailed and a joy to read. I also really liked the characters of Jane’s brothers and her mother.

However, in this book poor Jane is haunted by a shadowy figure and every time she sees this figure tragedy follows. Is it a vision of Jane’s creating or real? We do not know but it is clear that Jane feels a deep sense of guilt over the death of Anne Boleyn.

I absolutely loved this book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the author’s notes at the end. I always enjoy reading about how Weir created the book. I highly recommend this book and the series so far. They contain love, intrigue, religion, drama, history and much more. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Reviews of previous books

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession

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Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You, edited by Adam Kay (Review)

Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You, Edited by Adam Kay

Blurb

Created and edited by Adam Kay (author of multi-million best seller ‘This is Going to Hurt’), ‘DEAR NHS’ features household names telling their personal stories of the health service. Contributors include Joanna Lumley, Naomie Harris, Kate Tempest, Lee Child, Tanni Grey Thomson, Bill Bryson, Trevor McDonald, Jack Whitehall, Michael Palin, Stanley Tucci and many, many more.

Review

I had this book preordered as soon as I heard about it and I couldn’t wait to read it when it arrived. I love the idea of this book, celebrities, people we know so well, tell us their stories and thank you’s to the NHS in the format of stories, poems, essays and letters.

The first celebrity’s story is Graham Norton and I was hooked and could not put the book down. I loved how heart felt some of these stories were and how most people wanted to give their sincere thanks to the NHS. They also didn’t just thank the doctors and nurses, they thanked all the NHS staff, the porters, cleaners, everyone.

Some of my favourite stories were by Graham Norton, David Tennant, The Hairy Bikers, Stephen Fry, Dame Jacqueline Wilson and many more. This book really was an emotional rollercoaster. One minute you are almost crying and the next minute laughing at someone like Jonathan Ross getting a lollipop for being brave even though he is an adult.

There sadly were a few in this book that spoiled it for me. Some like Frankie Boyle who used his story as political rant and Jamie Oliver who promoted his own recipes and website. Some celebrities were just too self obsessed for me in this book and I really didn’t think that this wonderful book was the time or place.

I really did enjoy this book but because of certain people it was slightly ruined for me. However, I still recommend this book to everyone who loves the NHS and the fact that every copy bought gives a donation to the NHS is even better. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

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