Reviews, Scottish Reads

Hear No Evil

In the burgeoning industrial city of Glasgow in 1817 Jean Campbell – a young, Deaf woman – is witnessed throwing a child into the River Clyde from the Old Bridge.

No evidence is yielded from the river. Unable to communicate with their silent prisoner, the authorities move Jean to the decaying Edinburgh Tolbooth in order to prise the story from her. The High Court calls in Robert Kinniburgh, a talented teacher from the Deaf & Dumb Institution, in the hope that he will interpret for them and determine if Jean is fit for trial. If found guilty she faces one of two fates; death by hanging or incarceration in an insane asylum.

Through a process of trial and error, Robert and Jean manage to find a rudimentary way of communicating with each other. As Robert gains her trust, Jean confides in him, and Robert begins to uncover the truth, moving uneasily from interpreter to investigator, determined to clear her name before it is too late.

Based on a landmark case in Scottish legal history Hear No Evil is a richly atmospheric exploration of nineteenth-century Edinburgh and Glasgow at a time when progress was only on the horizon. A time that for some who were silenced could mean paying the greatest price.

This was a work of historical fiction based on a real case. After reading this book, I wanted to find out more about Jean but there really wasn’t a lot to find. So I really liked that the author had sort of given Jean their story even though I knew that only the bare bones of the story were true.

I found Jean to be such a brave character. She was a poor woman in the early 19th century who had fallen in love with a catholic man. One of these factors alone would have been enough to have made her life more difficult but she was also deaf and didn’t communicate verbally. So her life was extremely tough. Even when facing the gallows or the asylum, her bravery remained.

I felt so sympathetic towards Jean. She needed to tell her story of what happened but was scared but also struggling to get the words across.

Robert was as kind and patient a character as could be expected based on the time period. He was extremely prejudiced against Jean (who lived with a man she wasn’t married to), while I knew that was of the time, it annoyed me as I wanted more from Robert. I liked that he was very passionate about teaching people sign language and spent a lot of time explaining that deafness did not impact intelligence.

hen my sister lost her hearing, I saw how difficult it could be for her to communicate at times. How frustrated she would get. So this book really did break my wee heart.

Some of the parts of this book that annoyed me were more a credit to the author for conveying the attitudes of the time towards women and poor people. It was so infuriating to feel like the baddie could get away with it just because of their position in life.

I felt that this book really embodied the atmosphere of the early 19th century. The poverty, the misery, the acceptance that things may never get better. This was a very somewhat depressing book but I really did enjoy it.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Sound of Sirens

In a dead-beat coastal town in North East Scotland, seventeen-year-old Malky Campbell is desperate to help his pregnant and heroin addicted girlfriend.

DI Stark, a middle-aged detective, alarmed by the rise of teenage crime in Port Cawdor, uncovers the operations of a county line gang that are flooding the area with drugs and engaging in a vicious turf war with a local family.

Malky has just started working on his family’s trawler with his cousin Johnny, when their boat pulls up Johnny’s brother in its nets. The rest of the crew, the tightly-knit community and the police start to suspect that the cousins are responsible for his death.

With his brother dead, Johnny inherits the family trawler, which he plans to use to smuggle drugs into the country for the county line gang, giving him enough money to start a new life.

What’s that? I’m back again chatting about reading some enjoyable Scottish fiction. You know it! I was lucky enough to receive a wee copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, seeing as I had this book in my Waterstones wish list, I couldn’t resist!

There were two main reasons that I wanted to read this book: 1. it was set in a wee fishing village in the North East of Scotland and I live in the North East of Scotland. I was excited to read something set nearish to Aberdeen. 2. This book was long listed for the McIlvanney award (this is almost a guarantee to me of a good time).

I enjoyed this immensely! I would, however, like to point out that Aberdeen has been plagued by some pretty heavy haar since I started reading this book…coincidence? This very much enhanced the ominous vibes of the book.

The majority of this book took place during the summer break. Malky had finished high school and was trying to just work out what he was going to do. He seemed torn between his family expectations and jealousy of his peers who were heading to uni. He was lost and not sure where to go or what to do.

I really felt sorry for Malky who was just a wee guy that had been drawn into a whole bunch of trouble with no way out. He looked up to his cousins who were involved in some illegal antics and his mum just wanted the best for him. A future different to theirs.

I really liked the inspector who was struggling to find the right balance between being an inspector and being a father. He felt a bit mischievous in the way that he went sleuthing, he seemed like a nice guy. I really enjoyed the way that the lives of the characters were interwoven.

This book switched narratives between Malky (and the boat and illegal antics) and DI Stark (the person trying to stop the illegal antics). I really enjoy a multi POV tale. The writing style really brought home the sort of hopelessness of the characters who lived in a place that had basically lost their industry.

I loved that the reveal of what had happened came so early. Here I was, with my suspicions, then around 50% I got the reveal. At that point, it all went wild! The pacing that had been nice and gentle suddenly amped up and I was hooked!

I did have to get my map out for some of the travelling parts because I lost my bearings. I enjoyed witnessing bad decision after bad decision being made. The non-police characters just felt tragic with no choices left to them but the wrong choices.

This was not an uplifting or joyful read by any means but I knew that before going in and I did appreciate the ambiguous ending. I’m very grateful for my copy of the book and am excited to add it to my Scottish fiction bookcase! The haar can go away now, I’ve finished the book and no longer need the creepy on theme weather.

Scottish Reads, Vlogs

Reading Scottish- August Wrap Up

August’s Reading Scottish Wrap Up is my round up of all the Scottish literature read this month and this month feels a little less successful when compared to previous months. I feel this way as I read fewer books this month overall.

With my Scottish books, I had two books that were also one book which was confusing. Two different stories but in one physical book that you had to flip upside down to read the other story. So I count this as one but could it be two? Goodreads thought so but I disagreed. I also had a DNF which feels a little bit like a fail. However, I still found some excellent reads and it really is a good thing to put down a book that isn’t working.

My Reading Scottish Wrap Up Vlog

Books included in this week’s vlog are:

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Xstabeth/The Towers, The Fields, The Transmitters- David Keenan

Bury Your Secrets- M.R. Mackenzie*

Glowglass- Kirkland Ciccone

*gifted

Book Recommendation of the Month, Reviews, Scottish Reads

Glowglass

Starrsha Glowglass is on the front page of every newspaper. She isn’t a model, Vlogger, or reality TV show contestant. Starrsha is famous for something darker: she survived a massacre that claimed her Brothers and Sisters.

Hers was no ordinary family. They were The Family Glowglass – a religious order set up by an eccentric businessman as a tax dodge. One morning the parishioners sat down to breakfast; most didn’t get back up.

Only Starrsha and her mute Brother, Simon, survived. Both now have a chance to lead an ordinary life. And for Starrsha, that means high school.

Can a videotape bring back the dead? What’s behind the red door? Why won’t Starrsha’s best friend reveal her true sexuality? When is a poster on a wall actually a trap? Will My Chemical Romance reform? Why is Father obsessed with vintage tech? Why does Barbie freak out Starrsha? How many rich husbands has Aunt Imelda bumped off? And why is God crank-calling Starrsha?

For Starrsha, the path to enlightenment is a one-way trip to murder and madness…

After reading Happiness is Wasted on Me a few months ago, I fell in love with the way that Kirkland Ciccone writes characters. I instantly requested this book from the library and it only recently became available, I was giddy to read it!

I have to admit that in the time between requesting this book and reading it, I had covid and may have completely forgotten what the book was about. So I knew I was excited but allowed myself to ignore the blurb and to just go in with no expectations and just excitement.

As expected, I absolutely loved the main character Starrsha and her best friend Dan. Starrsha was just a wee soul! She had lost most of her family and was just trying to navigate high school while lacking any of the social awareness needed to get through it. Dan was a huge Gerard Way and My Chemical Romance fan which is something that I can definitely relate to! I cracked a rib seeing MCR live in 2005, totally worth it. The other high school girls felt so realistic, I hated them.

I really enjoyed the sort of treasure hunt element of this book. The Father, the cult leader, had left video tapes for Starrsha and Simon. Like a will but they felt more like just a way of tormenting his family from the grave. He had left money, a lot of money, which led to unpleasant absent family members returning to the home in order to claim the inheritance. This turned very messy, very quickly. I hated the auntie and uncle so much and I hoped that they would meet messy ends.

All the while, Starrsha found herself feeling watched. Like there was someone else in the house. It was like a locked room mystery at times and was such an exciting read.

I did not see any of the twists coming. It was such a wild ride of a book!

The format of this book was a surprise. A treat! It took the format of a transcript of vhs recordings and the book took place over a 3 hour recording that Starrsha had made. The book was part family saga, high school drama, mystery, and just twisty turny wildness. The chapters were very short as each chapter of was a single recording.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am so happy that it was as enjoyable as I’d hoped it would be. I definitely need to get my own copy of this book for my collection and I will be reading more books by this author.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Bury Your Secrets

One Saturday afternoon, three friends head north for a long weekend. On Monday, they will return home, having buried a body in the woods.

For Hazel, reeling from the discovery of her long-term partner’s infidelity, a getaway to a remote coastal village with her best friends, Mickie and Claire, seems like the ideal remedy. And when a local man, Aidan, takes a shine to her, Hazel wonders if she’s ready to move on.

Within hours, however, Aidan is dead, leaving Hazel and her friends with a dreadful choice: to come clean or mount a cover-up. Determined to protect Hazel at all costs, the friends forge a desperate pact.

But secrets have a habit of catching up with you – and of testing the bonds of friendship to their limits. And Hazel is about to find out that, no matter how much she might wish otherwise, you can’t bury the truth forever.

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you’ll know that I love reading Scottish fiction. I absolutely leapt at the chance to read this psychological thriller! I must admit that I have been getting more and more into the darker side of Scottish fiction and I’m loving it. This was a rather dark novel; more than just being about a murder, there were so many dark moments within all of the relationships in this book.

The book started with a trio of pals being involved in the death of a man who was a walking red flag. I actually liked that as I’d have been pretty sad if the victim didn’t seem like a baddie. I don’t enjoy books where the victim is a nice person as then I’m just sad. This set my mind whirring with all of the possibilities to come.

I didn’t like any of the characters. In this sort of book, the enjoyment came from the unravelling of the story so it wasn’t important to have likeable characters. Hazel was boring and so passive. Mickie was very intense and annoying. Claire was passive aggressive and controlling. In addition, Hazel’s partner was also a total tool. Aidan’s sister was also creepy. Full of unpleasant characters.

The characters kept making such terrible decisions which I feel made them feel very realistic. Humans are flawed and I can totally forgive these choices based on the super stressful situations that they were in. Although Hazel honestly did just seem like a liability from start to finish.

I must admit that I guessed about 6 different endings and was wrong EVERY TIME! This made me so happy as I really was kept guessing right up until the end. There were a fair few moments where I gasped and shouted at the characters (who couldn’t hear me based on this being fiction!).

I was left with a few questions regarding how some characters knew things that they had no way of knowing. I felt like there were some missed reveals.

This was a very thrilling read for me and I really enjoyed it! Thank you to Love Books Tours for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

What Happens In Dubai

Everyone’s favourite Glaswegian girl is back!

After having her heart well and truly broken, Zara Smith is more interested in fun than forever. But she’s starting to wonder if she’s slept with every (somewhat) eligible bachelor in Glasgow… and if there’s such a thing as too much fun?!

With competition ramping up in Glasgow, Zara and her friends at Individualise can’t pass up an opportunity to promote their aesthetics clinic – especially not when it involves an all-expenses-paid trip to Dubai! It’s THE summer destination for the sexy, rich and famous. Cue sun, sand and disastrous flirtations for everyone. But it’s okay because what happens in Dubai stays in Dubai, right?

I preordered this book the second that preorders were available. I’ve been super excited about this book for months. Imagine my excitement when I saw this book on NetGalley! I promptly requested to read an advanced copy of this book and was delighted to be accepted. I absolutely loved A Glasgow Kiss and was super excited to return to Zara and her escapades.

I was so giddy to read about Zara’s return to the dating game. I expected hilarious results and I was not disappointed. The book took a whole 6% before I was full on cackling! I apologise to my neighbours who surely heard my loud laughter. I tried to stifle it but honestly, I couldn’t hold it in.

I really enjoyed the gang’s wee trip to Dubai. It was so interesting to read about a lavish and glamorous holiday, especially after the last few years! This gave me a better insight into the awesome relationship between Zara and her colleagues, they really were like a wee family.

I loved getting to see Zara get to prove that she was an intelligent business woman. It could be so easy to just think of Zara as just a fun loving, party girl but she was so much more than that. She may not have showered as often as socially acceptable but she was really driven and was willing to take a risk in order to succeed. I also loved getting more time with Ash. I enjoyed the dynamic of having Ash in the flat.

I just found myself rooting for Zara to just have excellent things happen to her. I found myself shouting at the book trying to stop her from making some choices but I appreciate that I can’t control what happens in books.

This was such a wonderful sequel as it had everything that I’d loved from the first book; it was utterly hilarious and kept me guessing as I never knew what Zara was going to get up to next. I also loved the wee found family vibe going on at the clinic

I don’t think I’ll ever eat sweetcorn again and now have a new fear of getting sand in awkward places. Heavily recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the first book

Huge thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ebook in exchange for an honest review. I’m definitely going to tab for when I need a giggle

Scottish Reads, Vlogs

Reading Scottish- July Wrap Up

What an excellent month of Reading Scottish! I read 6 books by Scottish authors in July. This was a big surprise to myself as I’d miscalculated and was convinced that I had read 5.

My Reading Scottish Wrap Up Vlog

This month I read some gritty Scottish crime novels: The Quaker – Liam McIlvanney and Hold Your Tongue- Deborah Masson. These books were set in Glasgow and Aberdeen, respectively, and having lived in both of those cities I felt like I got an extra little something from them. Turns out I’m a huge fan of Scottish crime featuring serial killers.

After all of the serial killer reading, i needed something a bit cheerier. I had been recommended Elle McNicoll as an author and since their entire back catalogue was available on Amazon prime, I ended up reading all three of their books. I enjoyed A Kind of Spark, Show Me Who You Are, and Like a Charm. These were delightful middle grade books.

I rounded off my month of Scottish reads with What Happens in Dubai by Sophie Gravia*. You may remember my cackling while reading A Glasgow Kiss which was this author’s previous novel. This was just as hilarious and I cackled once again.

If you’ve read any excellent Scottish fiction that you’d recommend, please let me know in the comments.

*gifted

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Hold Your Tongue

A brutal murder.
A young woman’s body is discovered with horrifying injuries, a recent newspaper cutting pinned to her clothing.
A detective with everything to prove.
This is her only chance to redeem herself.
A serial killer with nothing to lose.
He’s waited years, and his reign of terror has only just begun . . .

If I’m being entirely honest, I almost put this book down with the aim to never return to it. However, I’m so glad that I didn’t give up on it because I ended up really enjoying it. Now I’m ready to read the sequel and I intend to go and see the author do a reading at the Central Library.

Firstly, I need to address why I thought I needed to give up on the book. Near the beginning of the book, there was a flashback which described an extremely violent act which gave me the boak. It made me feel so nauseated but this was literally just a sentence or two and once I got past that, I was in for a good time.

I really enjoyed the setting of this book. Some people may not enjoy reading about a serial killer on the prowl in the city that they live in but the familiarity of the locations really enhanced my enjoyment. I especially loved that this book took place in winter, we’ve been having a heat wave and I just loved reading about the snow and slush on the streets that I frequent.

The murders were seemingly random and I really enjoyed trying to work out what linked them. This book was like a puzzle! I was so excited and a little bit smug when I worked out the link between the victims. Especially as I worked it out before the protagonist.

I don’t know if I liked the characters. At first, I really disliked most of them. I hated the way that some of the characters interacted with each other. I’m not into reading books about toxic work environments. I’ve lived that and don’t need it in my fiction. The toxicity was resolved which was good because that really did take away a huge part of my enjoyment.

This was a very interesting and well written crime novel. It was so full of mystery and intrigue. My interest was held from start to finish. While I worked out the links between the victims, I didn’t know who the killer was or why they were tormenting the women of the city. I really enjoyed the reveal as it took me by surprise.

I always think that I’m not really into crime novels from the police perspective but this book really was an enjoyable read. I really enjoyed getting to try to work out the crime and the police detectives didn’t annoy me, other than being unable to work together. Often I find that detectives bend the rules which irks me on fiction because these are the people I expect to stick to the rules, that’s what usually annoys me in police detective stories. That wasn’t an issue in this book though which I’m so please about.

I’m so excited to find out what happens in the next book and to read more book about fictitious crimes in my home city!

Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Quaker

The Quaker is watching you…

It is 1969 and Glasgow has been brought to its knees by a serial killer spreading fear throughout the city. The Quaker has taken three women from the same nightclub and brutally murdered them in the backstreets.

A detective with everything to prove.
Now, six months later, the police are left chasing a ghost, with no new leads and no hope of catching their prey. They call in DI McCormack, a talented young detective from the Highlands. But his arrival is met with anger from a group of officers on the brink of despair.

A killer who hunts in the shadows.
Soon another woman is found murdered in a run-down tenement flat. And McCormack follows a trail of secrets that will change the city – and his life – forever…

As most of you know, I like to read Scottish fiction. However, I very rarely read Scottish crime fiction (or I think that I rarely read it). This seems so silly because Scottish crime is basically a genre of its own! So in addition to reading more Scottish fiction, I’ve started being more open to reading crime fiction.

While I don’t read a lot of crime fiction, I do enjoy the occasional true crime podcast. This book was inspired by a true crime case that I was familiar with- Bible John.

I enjoyed McCormack and the way that he didn’t try to get the department to like him. They were there to do the job and he wasn’t looking for friends. However, I did enjoy the moments of friendship that did pop up as they were so unexpected.

Due to the time period where this novel took place, there were quite a few times where I felt uncomfortable with the way that the police handled things. I assume that was realistic but base most of my knowledge of vintage police procedures on episodes of The Bill and the epilogue series of Prime Suspect. The way that the police treated suspects was horrible and definitely not ok, this made me feel very uneasy but may have been historically accurate.

The plot had two interweaving storylines; the murder and a heist. As a general rule, I hate heist novels but there are exceptions to the rules. This book was one of those exceptions.

The Murder storyline was just so compelling and I was hooked and just so keen to find out who was responsible for these horrific crimes. When the novel branched away from the crime that influenced the story, my interest continued to grow as I was so intrigued. The heist was an enjoyable story too. The actual heist was relatively short but the fall out from it continued throughout. It was enjoyable trying to work out how the two plots would merge. This just kept me guessing!

I was wondering how close to real life this book would be. In real life, we still don’t know who was responsible for the hideous crimes. I genuinely expected this to end without finding out who the murderer was. I was so happy to get the reveal. While there were some hints along the way, I did not see twists coming!

I really did enjoy this book and I do plan to read the sequel as I’m excited to see what happens next for McCormack. I lived in the East End of Glasgow for a long time and enjoyed recognising a lot of the areas.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Black Dog

Declan dreams of becoming a writer. It’s a dream that helps him escape the realities of his life – going through the motions at college and stacking supermarket shelves part-time, whilst fighting a battle with the ever-darkening thoughts in his head.

He has his pet Labrador for companionship and his best friend-turned-mentor, a pseudo-intellectual who works as a greenskeeper at the local municipal golf course, both of which help keep the worst of his anxieties at bay. But following a drunken row with local gangsters, Declan’s worries threaten to spiral out of control.

James Cavani – Declan’s idol and his hometown’s claim to fame – is a renowned writer, director and actor. But despite his success, his past hasn’t relinquished its hold of him, and through his younger sister’s battle with drug addiction, he finds himself returning to a world he thought he had escaped.

At face value, their lives couldn’t be more different, but perhaps fate has a way of bringing kindred spirits together – and perhaps each holds the other’s redemption in their hands
.

I’m a huge fan of Kevin Bridges’ comedy, which tends to feature comedic tales. Based on his stand up, I viewed him as a gifted storyteller. So I was beyond excited to read his first work of fiction and I was not disappointed!

The characters in this book were excellent.
Declan was just a wee lamb! Trying to hold it all together but struggling with anxiety and doubt. I loved his character growth. His mum and sister were amazing too. Doof Doof was the friend that everybody needs! He was just such an amazing character and supportive friend. I know he was more of a side character but he was my favourite character and I want only amazing things for him.

Even the ‘baddies’ felt realistic. I’ve read so many books that feature Scottish gang culture and they’ve all handled the topic so well. It would have been so easy to make them caricature gangsters. While these gangsters had some moments of hilarity, it didn’t detract from the very realistic threat of danger. There was a point where I was just chuckling away and then remembered that it probably wasn’t going to end well because ‘baddies’ were likely to do bad things. They did but it did include quite a few laughs.

I’ve never enjoyed a scene involving a running race quite as much as in this book! I genuinely cried with laughter.

I found this book to be heartwarming and hopeful while covering some quite tough topics such as; gang culture, violence depression, and fear. There were enough moments of laughter to lift me out of the sadness, this is something I very much enjoy in a book that covers gritty topics.

The only negative I have from this book was that I’d have loved chapters instead of parts. This is purely due to my inability to put a book down mid-chapter. This resulted in a couple of later nights for me as I needed to finish the part. This is definitely a ‘me problem’ and not an actual issue with the book but I know a lot of others feel the same about chapters. So be prepared and don’t start reading just before bedtime unless you’re happy to pause midway through a part. I do feel that the decision to use parts instead of chapters made sense as the parts each covered a very distinct part of the story.

This was such an enjoyable book. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.