All The Wicked Girls – Chris Whitaker


“Raine sometimes complains that nothing exciting is ever gonna happen in Grace again. Daddy told her careful what you wish for.”

Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine.

Then Summer goes missing. Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally.

But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye

Regular readers (and twitter followers) will be well aware of my love for Tall Oaks, Chris Whitaker’s stunning debut novel. It kept me up until the wee small hours reading.

It was with some trepidation that I started his second book, All The Wicked Girls. The bar had been set pretty high.

I needn’t have worried. All The Wicked Girls is utterly brilliant, though in a different way to Tall Oaks. I’d struggle to pick one to recommend to you if pressed, and would probably insist that you just buy both and thank me (or rather thank Chris) later.

It’s deep and complex, harrowing and heartbreaking, a story of a young girl’s hunt for her missing sister in a small southern bible belt town. Chris Whitaker does small-town America really really well, and the town and townsfolk are pitch perfect. As with Tall Oaks, All The Wicked Girls is a character piece, and what characters they are – from the distraught parents to the fire & brimstone preachers, the harried cops and Raine’s unlikely partners, Noah and Purv.

Much like Manny and Abe from Tall Oaks, I loved the three kids, each with their own secrets, each trying to make it in their own version of the world.

All The Wicked Girls will sit firmly alongside Tall Oaks in my books of the year. As I said earlier, don’t make me choose – buy both and settle down for some of the best storycrafting you’re likely to see for a long time.

Chris Whitaker can be found on twitter @whittyauthor. Go say hi. The go read his books.

August book update

Hello dear reader!

I thought I’d give you an update on what’s been going on, book-wise. It’s been a busy old month so far.

Currently tracking the TBR pile via a spreadsheet –

total in the TBR pile: 154

Kindle: 72 (35 from netgalley, oops – need to get that number down a bit!)
Hard copy: 82 (53 review copies, 29 mine)

Books read recently

The Other Twin, by L.V. Hay

Sharp and smart, the twists and turns nicely paced, and the characters well-drawn. Highly recommended.
(full review here)

Godsgrave, by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight was one of my favourite books of last year, if not ever. Godsgrave is, dare I say it, even better. Get your hands on a copy as soon as it comes out. Full review soon.

Rattle, by Fiona Cummins

Dark, twisty and downright unsettling. Very very good. Again, full review up soon.

All The Wicked Girls, by Chris Whitaker

Bumper month for awesome books. Tall Oaks was (and indeed is) astonishingly good. All The Wicked Girls is even better, filled with fantastic characters in a small-town America where Raine looks for her missing sister. Just buy it, thank me later.

The Fourth Monkey, by JD Barker

Huge fun, despite spotting the twist (or one of them) early on I really really enjoyed it. Cracking dialogue, brilliant characters, nasty serial killer on the loose. Recommended.
(full review here)

Artemis, by Andy Weir (published in November 2017)

I *loved* The Martian, both book and film. Sadly, Artemis disappointed – there’s a cracking story in there somewhere, it just feels a bit muddled in places. The character comes across as a teenager but isn’t, the dialogue is clunky and the science is, surprisingly, a bit shonky. That said, it’ll sell by the bucketload and make a fabulous film if they get the casting right. Full review up closer to the publication date.

Currently reading:

Yesterday, by Felicia Yap

There are two types of people in the world. Those who can only remember yesterday, and those who can also recall the day before.
You have just one lifeline to the past: your diary. Each night, you write down the things that matter. Each morning, your diary tells you where you were, who you loved and what you did.
Today, the police are at your door. They say that the body of your husband’s mistress has been found in the River Cam. They think your husband killed her two days ago.
Can you trust the police? Can you trust your husband? Can you trust yourself?

Up next

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence, by Michael Marshall Smith

It’s not every day that the Devil knocks on your door
From the critically-acclaimed author of Only Forward comes a delightful new tale about Hannah, a young girl living a mundane existence in California, who discovers that her grandfather has been friends with the Devil for the past 150 years . . . and now, they need her help.

Books received

Two very lovely signed ARCs:
Force of Nature, by Jane Harper (Pan Macmillan – February 2018)
Force of Nature
Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.
The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.
Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – in just a matter of days she was to provide the documents that will bring down the company she works for.
Falk discovers that far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. But does it include murder?

The Feed, by Nick Clark Windo (January 2018)
The Feed
It makes us. It destroys us.

The Feed is everywhere. It can be accessed by anyone, at any time. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it.

Tom and Kate use The Feed, but they have resisted addiction to it. And this will serve them well when The Feed collapses.

Until their six-year-old daughter, Bea, goes missing.

Because how do you find someone in a world devoid of technology? And what happens when you can no longer trust that your loved ones are really who they claim to be?

From The Shadows, by Neil White (Zaffre – March 2017)

He hides in the shadows, watching, waiting, until the time is right . . .
Mary Kendricks, a smart, pretty, twenty-four-year-old teacher, has been brutally murdered and Robert Carter is accused of killing her.
When defence lawyer, Dan Grant inherits Carter’s case only weeks before the trial starts, everyone expects him just to babysit it, but Dan’s not that kind of lawyer. He’ll follow the evidence – wherever it takes him.
But as Dan and his investigator Jayne Brett look into the case, they discover that there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to do their jobs they need to push the limits of the system, even if it means putting themselves in danger.
Together they will get to the truth – whatever the cost

Scorn, by Paul Hoffman (Whitefox – September 2017)

After an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider goes horribly wrong, depressed scientist Aaron Gall wakes up to discover his mind and body have undergone an astonishing transformation. Now bursting with the joys of life, he is inspired to undertake a radical new therapy: to talk to the priests who brutalized him and his school friends, point out the intellectual dishonesty and inhumanity of their religious beliefs – and then eat them. Aaron enjoys the process so much (as well as taunting the police and MI5) he decides to extend his murderous conversations to include the Archbishop of Westminster, recently converted Catholic Tony Blair, the Queen of England – and, finally, the Pope himself. But a Catholic Church that has given the world the Crusades, the Inquisition, and Papal Infallibility hasn’t survived for two thousand years without a reason. Aaron is in for the greatest shock in the history of mankind.

Wychwood, by George Mann (Titan Books – Sept 2017)

Elspeth May, a young female journalist who never seems to be in the right place at the right time, suddenly gets her big break only to find that no one will ever believe her story
When a local woman is found murdered in her own home, slashed viciously across the throat, the police begin a manhunt of the surrounding villages, unsure exactly of who or what they are looking for. Elspeth, accidentally first on the scene, finds her interest piqued, and sets out to investigate the details surrounding the crime. In doing so she finds herself constantly battling against Peter Shaw, a police sergeant working on the case and under suspicion due to a terrible incident that occurred on a previous investigation. More murders follow, each of them adopting a similar pattern. What links the victims? And why are some of the local people trying to cover things up?

Maria in the Moon, by Louise Beech (Orenda Books – August 2017)

‘Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’

Thirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

The Shock, by Marc Raabe (Bonnier Zaffre – August 2017)

When Laura Bjely goes missing during a storm on the Cote d’Azur, the only thing her friend Jan finds is her smartphone – with a disturbing film in the memory.
Back in Berlin, Jan’s neighbour is discovered with a bloody message left on her forehead.
As Jan searches for answers about what happened to Laura, he is thrown into a nightmare of madness and murder.

Domina, by L.S. Hilton
Everything you thought you knew about Maestra… You don’t.
Judith Rashleigh returns in the stunning new thriller from the author of the Worldwide No.1 Bestseller, Maestra.

Kill Me Twice, by Simon Booker (Bonnier Zaffre – August 2017)

Karl Savage is dead.
He must be. His ex, Anjelica, is in prison for murdering him in an arson attack. Multiple forensic experts testified to finding his charred remains.
So when Anjelica begs investigative journalist Morgan Vine to prove her innocence, it seems an impossible task. It doesn’t matter that Karl was abusive. That Anjelica has a baby to care for. That she’s petrified of fire. The whole world knows Karl is dead.
Then he walks past Morgan’s window . . .

The Fourth Monkey – JD Barker

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

The Fourth Monkey is enormous fun, if you can call a tale of a serial killer ‘fun’. Even if I did spot the twist some twenty pages in and worked out how it would pan out way before the end (one of the perils of reading so many books, I suspect!), and I *still* really enjoyed it! I loved the detectives’ banter as they raced to solve the clues left by 4MK – they made a fantastic team and I’d love to see them in more investigations. I also really liked the way the main story is interspersed with the diary extracts of 4MK as a young boy – they really gave the story added depth and intrigue – you’re torn between wanting to find out more about the diary, but also more about the investigation in the present day.

It’s creepy and twisty and has definite shades of Jeffrey Deaver. Definitely falls into the ‘page-turner’ category, The Fourth Monkey is highly recommended.

You can find JD Barker on twitter @jdbarker. The Fourth Monkey is published by HQ and is out now in hardback and ebook.

Thanks to Liz @Cvr_2_Cvr from Cover to Cover for hosting the competition which resulted in me getting a copy of the book!

The Other Twin – LV Hay

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved?
And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her?

What happened to Poppy’s sister? Was it suicide, or was she pushed? Poppy isn’t convinced it’s the former, so starts digging into her sister’s life, revealing a host of secrets that others would far rather have remained firmly buried.

The Other Twin is a smart psychological thriller, with an expertly woven web of twisted plot strands. There are secrets, lies and half-truths buried in the wintry lanes of Brighton, and Hay delivers an authentic taste of the city and its inhabitants as the tension ramps up and Poppy gets deeper into the mystery.

Poppy is a compelling heroine, drawn inexorably into the sometimes murky lives of her friends and family. It’s been some time since she was last home, and the people she knew have changed – who’s telling the truth and who’s bending the truth? I loved Poppy’s detective work into her sister’s life through the medium of blog posts, each throwing a new slant on what she thought she knew of her sister. Who is the mysterious Jenny? How is she linked to Poppy’s former boyfriend Matthew, his sister Ana, or any of the other key players?

The Other Twin is a relatively short read and I whistled through it in a couple of sittings. The writing is sharp and smart, the twists and turns nicely paced, and the characters well-drawn. Highly recommended.

The Other Twin by LV Hay is published by Orenda Books, and is available now. You can find Lucy on twitter @LucyVHayAuthor or at her website lucyvhayauthor.com.
Many thanks to Karen at @OrendaBooks for the review copy.

Game of Thrones – Season 7, episode 2: Stormborn

Or, “Greyworm, Greyscale and the Greyjoys”

WARNING: spoilers for episode 2 of season 7 follow!

And episode 1, naturally.

Dany & the gang have arrived at Dragonstone and the weather is worse than a bank holiday in a caravan in Wales. Even Melisandre rocks up (how far is Dragonstone from The Wall, anyway? Does she have some kind of magic travel stuff going on?). Yara, Elleria and the utterly fabulous Olenna Martell have a conflab, Tyrion tells them about his fantastic plan and everyone’s happy. Well, as happy as they get in GoT.

To be fair, the plan does sound like an improvement on the usual “let’s all pile down to King’s Landing and try and storm it”.

Greyworm and Missandei *finally* get it on, after a touching speech about she being his ‘weakness’. I was slightly distressed that they didn’t bother to close the door, mind you. Must be awfully draughty, that place. Anyone could wander in!

Back in King’s Landing, Qyburn reveals his grand plan to defeat Dany’s dragons. He appears to have invented the crossbow. *slow clap* Joffrey had one *ages* ago. Keep up!

Up North, Jon pays his respects to Ned’s statue in the catacombs when Baelish rocks up. I really thought Jon was going to strangle him for a brief, hopeful moment. But no, he lives to smarm another day. Boo.

Arya bumps into Hot Pie for a very weird, very stilted chat. HP is always good for delivering a key bit of info, tells her that the Boltons are all dead and Jon is now King of the North, so she wanders off to see what he’s been up to, though he’s wandered off to have a chat with Dany about that handy stash of dragonglass. Still, I’m sure Sansa will be pleased to see her.

Dear old Jorah. Riddled with greyscale, all set to end things on his terms. But what’s this! Sam appears! Turns out the cure for greyscale is just pulling bits off.

My concern is just how… low does the greyscale go…? Ick.

Finally, the Greyjoys. Specifically Euron. Deliciously viking in his approach to stuff, he’s got that wild-eyed, zero-fucks given approach to problem solving. Awesome ship, rock & roll entrance, glorious.

Next to die: Still Davos. Or maybe Euron. When will I learn not to have favourites?

Random thought lack of undergarments for Missandei and Greyworm. Surely there’d be chafing? Especially when they were wandering around in the leather armour.

Block 46 – Orenda Audio Week

Delighted to be taking part in Orenda Books’ Audio Week, where a host of awesome bloggers (and me) are reviewing the audiobook versions of some fantastic Orenda titles. Plus I’ve got *two* copies of Johana Gustawsson’s Block 46 audiobook to give away! More on that later.

Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina. Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

Firstly, the story. It’s dark and often horrific, told in part through flashbacks to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp towards the end of the Second World War. The characters here are twisted and barbaric in their treatment of the prisoners, and you’re dragged along through the story of Erich Hebner as he does what he needs to do to survive. How this then links to the murder of Linnea Blix in the present, or to the murders of a young boy in London, is what drives this story.

The characters are brilliantly realised – I loved Emily Roy and Alexis Castells in particular as they unpick the unpleasant clues behind these horrific murders. There’s a real international feel to the book – written by a French author (and here translated into English by Maxim Jakubowski), with the action moving from Falkenberg in Sweden to London, with a Canadian Behavioural Insight Analyst (Roy) and a French crime writer based in London (Castells). Regular readers of this blog know of my love of books which give you a sense of place, and Block 46 delivers this in spades, across the various locations in the book.

The audiobook is narrated by Patricia Rodriguez and Mark Meadows. If I had any criticism, I found Patricia’s delivery to be a little too measured and slow. However, the great thing about the Audible app is that you can alter the speed of the narration. I found that by bumping it up fractionally to 1.25x speed, the delivery felt better for me, and I got through the book quicker – always useful when you’ve got a lot of other books to read! The shift between Rodriguez and Meadows as narrators worked really well and really gave the story an extra dimension.

Karen at Orenda Books has given me TWO copies of the audiobook to give away – leave a comment here on the blog, or retweet a link to this post – I’ll pop all the names into a random number generator next week and announce the winners on twitter. You’ll need an account at audible.co.uk though!

You can find Johana Gustawsson on twitter @JoGustawsson. Block 46 is published by Orenda Books.

Game of Thrones – season 7

Game of Thrones – S07 Episode 1

Every time a new season of Game of Thrones starts I’ve been meaning to do a series of blog posts which follow along, talk about what we’ve just seen and speculate WILDLY on what might happen next. As Season 7 has just started, now’s the time!

WARNING: spoilers for episode 1 of season 7 (and possibly all of the previous seasons) follow!

Did I really need a spoiler warning? Perhaps.

Assuming you’re still reading, here follow some very random thoughts on the first episode.

As soon as Walder Frey appeared, I suspected Arya. Yay Arya. One less family to keep track of. I like her style.

Ed Bloody Sheeran. He’s everywhere. That whole scene just felt a bit pointless and jarring. Arya discovering that Soldiers Are People Too just felt a bit… off, I thought. “I’m off to kill the queen”, “lolz”.

I absolutely loved (and therefore fear for) Lyanna Mormont, kicking ass and taking no prisoners. Putting Lord Percy in his place.

Sam going to Hogwarts (assume everyone has made that joke) and sneaking into the restricted section despite what Slughorn said. Though why were only half the books chained up? That was totally a thing, but if you’re going to do it for some, they’d do it for all. Books (and therefore knowledge) were valuable. And how come he’s got his own little house? All the Maesters seemed to be in a dorm, with terrible plumbing, and even worse digestive systems.

I probably need to rewatch season 6. I’m not entirely sure why Jon was all suddenly OMG DRAGONGLASS IS TEH AWESOME. I don’t remember him ever using it, though he did have a swordfight with an undead dude, though I think that was at the end of season 5.

I also loved Euron. Cocky swine. “Yeah, I’ve killed my brother, and got two hands.” *suggestive eyebrow raise* “Right, I’m off to get you a present.”

Who will be the present? Tyrion?

Also, why was Dragonstone completely empty? Sam’s discovery of OH LOOK, DRAGONGLASS ON DRAGONSTONE (who’d have thought it?).

It’s all there. So she owns the world’s only dragonglass mine (really, is that a thing?) and the dragons. Loved the giant throne room. Have we seen that before?

And The Hound can see stuff in the flames. That was unexpected (I’ve not read the books, so it might be entirely expected).

Next to die: Davos – he can’t be long for this world. He’s too nice. There are still entirely too many characters moving into place, given how few episodes are left. I know we can’t expect them all to be killed off (though given past form, I wouldn’t be entirely suprised)

Random thought: I’d love to see the last two standing as Brienne and Tormund. They’d walk into the throne room in King’s Landing, see the Iron Throne, look at each other and go ‘nah’, then run off to have adventures. Possibly with Lyanna Mormont. PLEASE MAKE THIS A THING.