Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Vanishing Point - Val McDermid

The Vanishing PointThe Vanishing Point by Val McDermid
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was my first book by Val McDermid and it probably won't be my last. I was looking for something tense and thrilling and this certainly fit the bill, loads of twists and turns.

Beginning with the abduction of a child in an airport in America, we are then introduced to the childs guardian Stephanie, a ghost writer who makes a living interviewing and then writing biographies of celebrities.

Recently she had been involved with writing the life story of a reality tv star, and this is the bit I found rather hard to stomach - The author has clearly based her second lead character very closely on the late celebrity Jade Goody and for me that made it a lazy way of writing a story - the parallels kept on coming and I just kept feeling as though I'd read the book before as there were too many similarities to her life.

However the story was so well written I was prepared to overlook this and am glad I did as the story develops in ways reality never could and builds to a truly shocking climax.

As the search for the missing child continues we are given hints of who may be behind it, fed a few rather tasty red herrings and led gently up the garden path without realizing where we are heading - and even on those occasions where we second guess whats coming its never quite how we anticipated.

In my opinion the authors writing style seemed a touch dated, for such a contemporary theme I felt it was written by someone who had researched everything really well but wasn't completely in touch with today's celebrity culture. However her great storytelling ability more than made up for this and her ability to weave a web of events whilst keeping me completely absorbed despite those few minor misgivings makes me want to go out and discover what else she has to offer.

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Saturday, 1 December 2012

Todays new arrival

I consider myself very fortunate to have been accepted as a reviewer for Choc-Lit. Not only are most of their books fabulous reads but every time they send me their latest monthly title to read and review those lovely souls pop in a delicious chocolately treat!

Now being on Slimming world means that chocolate IS a treat and a rare one at that but I am allowed it if I count is as a syn or treat. Januarys title is No such thing as Immortality and if you go to the choc lit website you can preview the first two chapters of this paranormal romance with a different viewpoint..

Of course that won't give you a taste of the gorgeous Lindt dark chocolate with Chili, but you can't have everything! (Nom nom chomp)

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Up Close - Henriette Gyland (Choc Lit)

Up CloseUp Close by Henriette Gyland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Those clever people at Choc lit tapped into my psyche again and came up with a tempting and enthralling romantic psychological thriller that ticks all my boxes.

Lia Thomson has recently returned to the UK after having moved to the USA where she has a successful career as a doctor. Back in Norfolk, having recently inherited her grandmothers cottaage, where she was brought up, afterthe sudden and rather mysterious death of her Gran. Mysteries from both past and present begin to haunt her, memories of the death of her little brother Eddie return, even though she was only 4 when he died, disturbing nightmares of water and drowning recur and she begins to uncover sinister facets of her Grandmothers life and death.

Having lived here as a child its inevitable that she'll meet some of her former schoolfriends, she becomes reacquaintanced with her former friend Susannah and when she meets Aidan Morrell she finds him very changed from the companion of her youth, years in the army have left him battle scarred and bitter and he seeks solace in his interests of deep sea diving and painting. He's just the complication she doesn't need especially as he is engaged to the rich and successful Brett waiting for her back in the USA.

The whole book has a dark and sinister feel and is much more than just a romantic novel its a tense and quite disturbing thriller which kept me turning the pages well into the night. Highly recomended to anyone who enjoyed Ninepins or Revenge of the Tide

Now available at

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Giveaway - Searching for Captain Wentworth - Jane Odiwe

I was recently the lucky recipient of a lovely review copy of Searching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe which is a lovely time travel/ dual time frame romance heavily influenced by and featuring Jane Austen.

Having read and enjoyed it and posted my reviews I checked with Jane that she is happy for me to offer my own review copy as a prize giveaway on my blog. So, what is on offer is a pre-loved, read once paperback copy. This is open to UK entrants only.

Id also like to get new followers so I'd like you to promote the giveaway anyway possible by posting a link  on Facebook or Twitter, posting on your own blog, emailing it to a friend or mentioning it on your favourite book related forum or group.

What you need to do is add a comment to this post telling me exactly how you passed on the news about this giveaway, and do one of the following so I have a way of contacting the winner - either do it when you're signed in to blogger, or leave an email address or your Twitter id. Finally follow my blog (theres a link to google friend connect on the right hand side)

Once I've doubled the number of followers to 70 (or on 30th December whichever is soonest) I'll draw the winner. Good luck everyone!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Searching for Captain Wentworth - Jane Odiwe

Searching for Captain WentworthSearching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was invited to review this historical novel I accepted with alacrity because it fits into my favourite genre "dual time" narrative fiction so well.

When I received it I firstly admired the lovely cover. Then I wondered if I'd done the right thing agreeing to read it, when I realised just how passionate the author is about Jane Austen and her works. This book is based very firmly around Janes life and although I've enjoyed several movies based on books by Jane Austen I've never actually read any of her books and I wondered if this was going to make any sense without an in depth knowledge of her work and in particular Persuasion on which this book leans heavily for inspiration.

I needn't have worried it stands alone as a dual time romance and is a lovely flowing story. It begins in the present day when young Sophie Elliott, reeling from a broken romance, longing to be a writer, having lost her mojo somewhat is out of the blue offered the keys to an apartment in Bath and an invitation to occupy the formerly empty apartment for as long as she needs to get back on her feet. Who could resists an offer like that? When she arrives to find it full of dust from years of disuse only the fact that it is situated next door to the house where one of her favourite authors used to live makes her want to stay.

When young and handsome neighbour Josh drops a glove, Sophie picks it up intending to return it and is mysteriously transported back in time to the Regency era, where she happens to meet and befriend Jane Austen herself.

Travelling back and forth between past and present is always a difficult concept to grasp and one has to suspend disbelief somewhat, however it is done with such charm and ease I found it quite easy to accept. As present day offers her friendship with the likeable Josh, the past offers a different friendship with Jane herself and the possibility of love looms with Janes brother Charles.

Whilst Sophie investigates a secret romance she suspects existed between Jane and a mystery man, discovers a chain of coincidences linking her family history to the Austens and struggles with travelling back and forth in time taking its toll on her health.

The setting of Bath is exquisitely described and the authors knowledge of and love for Jane Austen shines through like a beacon.

I enjoyed both the modern day story and the past regressions Sophie experiences and although there are one heck of a lot of coincidences to accept, the whole story is captivating, fun, very romantic and very cleverly constructed. A delight for romance lovers and an absolute must for Austen enthusiasts.

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Monday, 5 November 2012

Miranda's Mount - Phillipa Ashley

Miranda's MountMiranda's Mount by Phillipa Ashley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a super feel good romance. The eponymous heroine is likeable and real, an old fashioned romantic with a modern touch. Miranda has what to some would be a dream job - to others it would feel like a prison sentence. She manages a historic castle on a small island off the coast of Cornwall, St Merryns Mount, which is cut off from the mainland at high tide and at low tide reached only by a narrow causeway across the sand.

She does her job with great pride and a real deep affection for the place she is custodian of, efficiently dealing with staff, and looking after the many visitors dealing with the wide variety of daily events. On rare evenings off she likes to join her friend Ronnie who works with her on the island when the two girls go out on the pull in the local pubs, just a normal, single girl working and playing hard.

Then into her carefully ordered world steps Jago St Merryn, Lord of the castle and straight out of a pirate novel, handsome, unconventional, rich and unwelcome in Mirandas life as his presence at the Mount, when he returns after years of absence, threatens not just her job but her peace of mind.

Instant attraction fizzes between the two from the very start, in some ways he's the stuff of her dreams, he turns her on and she'd love him to make a move on her; but his presence stands to destroy all the security and stability in her life as he is going to sell the Mount, for reasons unknown he won't consider taking over the family castle and she and her friends will soon be out of a job and a home. So Miranda plans to try and thwart his efforts any way she can, which isn't easy especially when she finds him so darned attractive and can't stop fantasizing about the two of them getting together.

As truths are revealed and Jago's past is gradually revealed she realizes she has little chance of changing the man or his mind so what will happen next?

The book paints a lovely picture of life in a stately home, beautifully descriptive and evocative of Cornwall and there's enough lust and passion to make a maiden aunt blush, yet we really get inside the mind of a young woman falling hopelessly and helplessly for the wrong guy, (who you can't help fancying yourself - or maybe that was just me?)

Its always exciting to discover a new author, but it can be a bit daunting when you're invited to review a new book by an author whose work you've never read because, lets face it - theres some awful tosh out there masquerading as literature.

I'm delighted to say this isn't going to join the rubbish heap - Its a lovely read and one I'd recommend very highly to anyone who likes a fun contemporary romance with realistic characters, a great setting and a super storyline with loads going on to keep you entertained from page one right through to the very tantalizing end - whether thats to be a happy one or a tear jerker I'll leave you to find out, when you take your trip to Miranda's mount.

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Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Rose Petal Beach - Dorothy Koomson

The Rose Petal BeachThe Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very tense and quite difficult read in some parts.

Narrated in turn by several different women - 3 of them best friends.
Tamia kicks off the story as police enter her home and in front of her 2 young daughters arrest her husband for a crime so bad they won't even speak it aloud in front of the children, Tamia remains the main narrator and common thread throughout the book.

The second female narrator is Mirabelle, Tamias good friend, neighbour, running companion and workmate of her husband, deeply integrated into the storyline Mirabelle is the owner and subject of a painting the Rose Petal beach - from which this novel takes its name.

The 3rd friend in this female trio is Tamias best friend Beatrix, divorced, looking for love, lonely and vulnerable she is heavily reliant on her friendship with Tamia.

As the story jumps back and forth in time, introducing new characters all the time including Fleur, whose identity I will leave you to discover and the arrested husband Scott, who begins as the love of Tamias life until our perceptions of him change irrevocably when we discover just what it is he has been accused of and secret sides of his character are gradually revealed.

This is very much a who dunnit type mystery but its also very much about people, emotions and female friendship. Many of the things some of the characters did are beyond my comprehension and I got seriously frustrated with Tamia at times for her sheer ability to bury her head in the sand and put up with shit nobody I know would put up with!

Deeply flawed as most of the characters truly are they are mostly shaped by circumstances and the storyline grips you and won't let go. A few parts were a touch repetitive and I think I'd have preferred the story to be a little tighter, briefer and more concise.

If, like me you loved The Ice Cream Girls Do give the Rose Petal beach a try, its very different and very cleverly written and I think you'll have a hard time not to get wrapped up in this riveting and thought provoking and sometimes pretty distasteful story. Superb writing.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Book of Closed Doors - Jane Steen

The House of Closed DoorsThe House of Closed Doors by Jane Steen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thoroughly enjoyable romantic historical novel set in America in the late 1800s where choices for a young woman were limited by background and convention.

Our heroine Nell having lived a sheltered and privileged life, decides she wants to experience life before or even if she settles down and marries. Nevertheless she succumbs to the temptation to flirt with a personable young man who enters her life and almost without realising it can have happened finds herself unmarried and pregnant a scandalous state of affairs.

Deciding she must stick to her guns and remain single she resolutely refuses to name the child's father, (although how nobody manages to work it out seeing she meets so few men is a bit beyond me) Her own harsh stepfather happens to be a governor of a poor farm, an institution for the unfortunate members of society, mentally infirm, feeble minded, unwed mothers and sends Nell there to await the birth of her child decreeing that once it is born it can be adopted.

Although the circumstances and surroundings are far from Nells own background, living in the institution is not nearly as bad as she imagined as it is compassionately run by Mrs Lombardi. Nell who is an accomplished and keen needleworker and stitcher is encouraged to work as the farms seamstress, and working thus gives her satisfaction and the company of another inmate with whom she builds a strong friendship - Tess, abandoned by her family for being "feeble minded" It is clear from her description that Tess has Downs syndrome, she is feisty. bright and loving, I loved Tess.

Tess temporarily takes over the place in Nells affections of Nells best friend Martin who she misses lots as he has previoulsy always been there for her as a platonic family friend

However Nell uncovers a mystery in this establishment when two bodies are discovered and she suspects foul play and is determined to uncover the culprit.

Meanwhile her child is born and she discovers that parting with her is not going to be something she can consider, baby Sarah is the most endearingly written baby, usually authors gloss over the difficult task of character building for an infant too small to even speak but this author does it so well I could really picture the little mite and wanted to hug her.

The story was left open for a sequel and I'd love to read what happens next and possibly have my hopes throughout the book for a romance for Nell, which I felt we were being led towards which sadly didn't come to fruition.

Thank you to the friend who recommended it saying I'd enjoy it - I very much did. Lovely writing, great characters, really enjoyed it.

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Monday, 17 September 2012

The Road back - Liz Harris

The Road BackThe Road Back by Liz Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story begins in the 1990s where we are briefly introduced to Amy a young woman adopted at an early age searching for clues about her birth parents, we learn that her name at birth was Nima and she has unusual eyes which mark her out as being a little different.

Then the story flashes back to the 1950s and we are introduced to the main heroine of the tale Patricia, sister to the chronically sick James she bears the brunt of her domineering ex-army major fathers disappointment that he doesn't have the son he wanted to follow in his military footsteps and her submissive and rather cowed mothers misplaced guilt complex, turning her teenage years into a sheltered and rather lonely adolescence.

Keen to impress her father she is flattered when he demands her help in compiling a book he is writing about the time he spent abroad living in Ladakh, a place his fond memories of provide an escape from his humdrum and disappointing life.

When this in turn leads to the opportunity to actually travel to this remote country about which she has heard and read so much, she jumps at the chance of travel and excitement albeit as her fathers companion and assistant.

Upon arriving in the Himalayan kingdom she immediately understands his fascination and love for this mystical and beguiling place and finds a similar instant attraction towards the quite and unassuming local helper Kalden who has been introduced to them as their guide, partly because of his ability to speak English (although haltingly) because of time he spent with an English family of missionaries in his childhood.

His life as a fourth son holds little opportunity and Kalden is destined to soon enter the monastery as a monk, a life he has little enthusiasm for, nor any likelihood of avoiding his fate.

When fate throws these ill fated young people together, despite their huge cultural differences they are instantly and irrevocably drawn to each other and an ill advised and secret relationship rapidly develops between Patricia and Kalden and what follows is a heartbreaking but enduring love story destined to fail … or is it? You must read the book to find out.

Its truly romantic and the characters are full blown and realistic if, understandably, a touch flawed by their circumstances. The dual time aspect although focussed heavily on the past really lifts it and adds to the story. An accomplished and satisfying debut romantic novel.

My only slight niggle, which wasn’t enough to spoil the book for me but irked me a tiny bit is the halting English which Kalden speaks making him sound childlike and a touch dim, which jars with his warm and emotional character somewhat.

Don’t let this put you off in any way, This is a heartwarming, passionate and very tender love story. Sit yourself down with a big mug of hot chocolate and have the tissues ready!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Taste of Fear - Jeremy Bates

The Taste of FearThe Taste of Fear by Jeremy Bates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the publisher: American movie star Scarlett Cox and her husband, hotel tycoon Salvador Brazza, head to Africa to get away and resuscitate their ailing marriage. When robbed of their money and passports, they seek help from the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam—on the very day Al Qaeda chooses to bomb it. In an eyeblink they're taken hostage and whisked across the border deep into the Congo, one of the last truly wild places left on earth.

Battling terrorists, deadly wildlife and cannibalistic rebels, Scarlett and Sal must find a way to survive in a violent, primeval world.

My review ....

A sensational, breakneck thriller with loads of action, merciless violence and adventure.

Celebrity couple actress Scarlett Cox and her older, tycoon husband Salvatore (Sal) Brazza have hit marital problems just 4 years into their marriage, life together in the constant glare of camera flashes and dogged by the paparazzi provides little time for the pair to reconcile their differences.

So they decide that spending Christmas on a safari holiday in remote Tanzania will give them some time away from the glare of publicity and make a last ditch attempt to rekindle their waning love for each other. But a safari holiday can be a bit too adventurous and dangerous especially when things don't always go as smoothly as planned. It's a hostile world out there in the jungle but its not just the wild animals who are a threat.

Someone wants Sal dead and he's omitted to tell Scarlett about a previous attempt on his life and when the would be assassin follows them to the other side of the world intent on killing Sal he is thwarted in his attempts by the unlucky couples run of bad luck and ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - placing them in the American embassy at the very moment Al Qaeda terrorists detonate bombs and the hapless couple end up being taken hostage with several others, by a band of violent and ruthless killers.

Taken deeper into the heart of Africa, followed by the ruthless assassin, Scarlett has to rely on her wits to survive and as bloody violence and mayhem erupts, battles to stay alive and keep her sanity.

The Taste of fear is bitter in her mouth as she experiences horror and savagery she has never before imagined.

This is one real roller coaster ride of terror which begins with a romance being rekindled then builds throughout the book to bloodthirsty violence.

I have to admit that having read and loved this authors excellent debut novel the psychological thriller White Lies I was very keen to see what he'd come up with next. When I read the blurb I wasn't quite so sure that this one would be my cup of tea at all.

I needn't have worried - the authors excellent style of writing, very real characters and superb handling of multiple very complex situations, backed up by thorough background research and detail make this story effortless to get into and easy to relish.

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Untied Kingdom - Kate Johnson

The Untied Kingdom - Kate Johnson - Choc Lit

Description from the publishers blurb:
The portal to an alternate world was the start of all her troubles - or was it? When Eve Carpenter lands with a splash in the Thames, it's not the London or England she's used to. No one has a telephone or knows what a computer is. England s a third world country and Princess Di is still alive. But worst of all, everyone thinks Eve's a spy. Including Major Harker who has his own problems. His sworn enemy is looking for a promotion. The general wants him to undertake some ridiculous mission to capture a computer, which Harker vaguely envisions running wild somewhere in Yorkshire. Turns out the best person to help him is Eve. She claims to be a popstar. Harker doesn't know what a popstar is, although he suspects it's a fancy foreign word for spy . Eve knows all about computers, and electricity. Eve is dangerous. There's every possibility she's mad. And Harker is falling in love with her.

I'd seen this book reviewed and liked the concept, I love the idea of time travel. So when I saw it on kindle for only 99p I snapped it up. (if you hurry you might just still be able to nab it for your kindle at this bargain price) Buy it on Amazon here

It's from the folks at Choc-lit so I was expecting romance - what I got was super romance I think this is about one of THE most romantic love stories I've ever read.

It begins when Eve, a has been celebrity, ex member of a girl band is taking part in a show something like "I'm a celebrity get me out of here" and has to paraglide above the River Thames, but the jump goes wrong and she plummets into the water - to find she has somehow fallen through a hole into another London. Pulled from the murky waters of the river she finds herself in a parallel England currently at war where only the very rich have any kind of technology and where she is suspected of being a spy. When she tries to explain herself what she says sound completely bonkers so they decide as it can't be proven that she's a spy she must be insane and lock her up in an asylum!

Then she meets Major Will Harker, he's rough, tough grubby and grumpy and determined to find out just what it is Eve's hiding and the 2 are destined to clash and misunderstand each other time and time again whilst being physically attracted to each other.

What ensues is a paranormal romance of a different kind, a passionate love story and a clash of worlds and cultures as well as 2 minds fighting not to be drawn towards each other in a love that's doomed to be hopeless.

Theres a lot of fighting and military events but somehow it all just works really really well. I'm not usually much of a fan of paranormal romances but this is so refreshingly different. As in most Choc-lit romances we are treated to the male perpective as well as the female and this helps us get inside the mind of Will as well as Eve. He really is a hero I'd not think I'd be drawn to, scarred of body, divorced, killer of men, rough at the edges but oh he's SO darned sexy!

If you like lots of love and romance in a different setting do give the Untied Kingdom a try. I really enjoyed it and would like to read a sequel just to find out what happens afterwards.

I think it might appeal to anyone who enjoyed Cross Stitch (Outlander, US) although its much more contemporary.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Split Second - Cath Staincliffe

QUOTE from the publishers blurb:

On a winter's evening, a trio of unruly teenagers board a bus, ganging up on Luke Murray, hurling abuse and threatening to kill him. The bus is full but no one intervenes until Jason Barnes, a young student, challenges the gang. Luke seizes the chance to run off the bus, but he's followed.

Andrew Barnes is dragged from the shower by his wife Valerie: there's a fight in the front garden and Jason's trying to break it up. As Andrew rushes to help, the gang flees. Jason shouts for an ambulance for Luke, but it is he who will pay the ultimate price.

Split Second, Cath Staincliffe's insightful and moving novel, explores the impact of violent crime - is it ever right to look the other way?

What a fabulous read, the characters are intensely real and the descriptions of their emotions are amazingly well handled.

Shy, plump Emma is taking a late bus ride home when 3 Chavs get on and begin harassing and racially abusing a young lad sitting a few seats in front.

Emma is appalled and frightened, she wants them to stop but is also scared they'll notice her and turn their attentions to her and as they get more violent and nobody else intervenes we share her feelings of fear and disgust.

When they all get off the bus she hopes its the end of the incident but its just the beginning of a new nightmare.

What follows is a tragedy which affects many lives and we are drawn into those lives with stunning ease peeling back the layers of peoples lives.

Its mainly the story of the families of Luke the bullied boy and Jason another young man who is the only one to come to his aid. The repercussions really are like ripples in a pool spreading outwards.

As Emma is called as a witness we learn more about her background and her character and I can honestly say I don't think I have ever hated anyone as much as I loathed and despised her father - so much that I shook every time he appeared on the page! My empathy for her was intense and vivid.

My only slight drawback was the rather lengthy and dull courtroom scenes which although necessary to the conclusion weren't nearly as enjoyable to read and made the ending a little dull after a sparkling and fast paced main story.

I would compare this in some ways to One Moment, One Morning as they both deal with the aftermath of events and the lives it touches.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The girl you left behind - Jojo Moyes

The Girl You Left BehindThe Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another wonderful triumph for the sensational Ms Moyes.

A dual time narrative story, although instead of changing narrative rapidly between eras as is often the style, the historical part lets you get deeply involved for about 150 pages before casting you into the 21st century, then the modern story takes over with brief revisits to the past emerging here and there, it works very well making sure you are deeply immersed in the story of Sophie before meeting her modern day contemporary Liv..

Set in 1916 the first world war is raging throughout Europe and in occupied France Sophie and her sister Helene run what remains of the family hotel whilst their husbands are away fighting the Boche. We experience the hardship of life in a small French town under German occupation, the deprivations and worries and the small attempts at resistance which make life seem liveable. As Sophie works to feed the ungrateful and increasingly demanding German troops occupying the town she reminisces about her brief marriage to the love of her life, artist husband Edouard Lefevre whose portrait of her, the girl he left behind, hangs in the hall of the hotel as a constant reminder of their devotion to each other.

Worries for his safety almost destroy Sophies sanity - there is practically nothing she wouldn't do to ensure his safe return to her.

Back in modern day London Liv is young woman with worries of her own, recently widowed the death of her successful architect husband David has caused not only grief but financial stress as she battles to make ends meet and keep the stunning designer home he built for them.

As she battles to overcome her loss she is watched over by a painting given to her on their honeymoon - The girl he left behind hangs on her bedroom wall, bringing back treasured memories of better days.

And thus the 2 stories become interlinked, and the twin themes of love lost and deciding how far you will go to preserve memories and past love weaves an intriguing and pare turning story.

I literally couldn't put this book down - sent to me by a friend, I picked it up the minute it plopped through my letterbox and despite already being half way through another book and with a teetering To be read pile waiting, I picked it up, read a few sentences and was hooked.

The whole story keeps you wanting to read just a few more pages, lost of lovely well thought out twists and turns to keep you guessing and of course the inevitable box of tissues needed at least in one part in particular. The end is superbly satisfying and well crafted and the whole book is a sheer delight to read.

Jojo MoyesJojo Moyes previous book Me before youMe Before You was most definitely one of my top books of this year, and The girl you left behind will join it, although I do think of the 2 her previous book was marginally the best - the emotional connection I felt with that was intense and all consuming.

Although I adored every word of the girl you left behind, the occupied France setting in a small hotel reminded me just a touch TOO much of the 1970s tv comedy series 'Allo 'allo and this cast a vague hint of farce over the parts in occupied France which I felt a touch uneasy with being such an emotive subject. But thats probably just me and I'm sure was unintentional. It would however make me possibly think of it as 9/10 rather than the 10/10 I gave the previous book as that was such a hard act to follow - still amazing writing and storytelling though. Very highly recommended.

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Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce

From Amazon: "Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012: 'The odyssey of a simple man, original, subtle and touching' - Claire Tomalin
When Harold Fry leaves home one morning to post a letter, with his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other.
He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone.
All he knows is that he must keep walking.
To save someone else's life."

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely delightful - sheer reading pleasure at its very best.

Harold and Maureen are a retired couple living a quiet, mundane life in Devon, where hardly anything ever happens and they hardly ever talk to each other any more, when they do its barely an exchange of words followed by Maureens usual put down "I think not"

One day a letter arrives for Harold which informs him that an old work colleague Queenie is in a hospice in Berwick on Tweed. Harold pens a reply and walks out of the door to post it on the corner of the street, then decides to walk on to the next postbox - then the next until postboxes become towns and he just carries on walking deciding to deliver the letter by hand. As he walks he reminisces and we begin to realise there was something between him and Queenie, his story is gradually revealed as his walk continues and its evident that there are many things lurking beneath the surface of his and Maureens relationship.

Back at home Maureen struggles to adapt to life without him, she talks to their son David and strikes up a friendship with an elderly neighbour and as days turn into weeks Harolds walk becomes a pilgrimage which stands for so much more than delivering a letter by hand.

Along the way he meets many unusual characters, the misfits and the lonely and learns more about himself than he bargained on.

With quirky flashes of humour, and moments of poignant tenderness the story is a little darker than I imagined it would be, although its essentially a love story it had me reduced to tears on the Arriva bus trying to pretend I had hayfever!

Loved it - highly recommended!

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Monday, 6 August 2012

Every vow you break - Julia Crouch

From the publisher - The Wayland family - Lara and Marcus and their three children - leave England to spend a long, hot summer in Trout Island, Upstate New York. Lara, still reeling from an abortion that Marcus insisted on, hopes the summer away from home will give her time to learn to love her husband again. 

A chance meeting at a party reacquaints the family with Marcus's old actor friend, Stephen, with whom Lara once had an affair. Lara feels herself drawn towards Stephen and they pick up their secret relationship where they left off. Lara knows she's playing a dangerous game; what she doesn't know is that it's also a deadly one.

This is a difficult one to review as I didn't hate it by any means but I felt very critical of some aspects anyway here are my thoughts.

Every Vow You BreakEvery Vow You Break by Julia Crouch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was so looking forward to reading this book and when I won a copy in a prize draw was thrilled but it just somehow missed the mark a little.

Don't get me wrong the story is a good idea, its tense and quite gripping but the characters failed to convince me, they all seemed just a touch overblown, caricatures rather than real people I could completely believe in and relate to.

The idea is good, The Wayland family from England arrive in the USA for a summer break with a difference. Mum Lara is bitterly licking her wounds after an abortion she reluctantly went ahead with and is regretting. Husband Marcus a small bit part actor who has come to the US at the invitation of an old friend hoping that involvement with a theatre group may lead to lucrative employment. Twins Bella and Olly and young Jack arrive in Trout island where they discover the accommodation which has been provided falls rather short of expectations and has a sinister air and when strange things begin to happen Lara wonders what's going on if they are being watched or if she's imagining things.

When mutual friend from the past Stephen turns up and Lara realises old feelings between them could easily be revived on both their parts, she begins to feel she has someone she can at last rely on but will it cause her joy or heartache?

Marcus comes across and such a despicable and unlikeable wimp I can't imagine why anyone would stay with him as long as Lara has, Bella, too has secrets and I fail to understand why on earth she puts up with what she does. Nobody seems to have noticed that Olly is 2 sandwiches short of a picnic if not much, much worse!

5 year old Jack talks and converses for the most part like a 15 year old and the people they meet through the theatre and locally - well they are all so much larger than life none of them ring true.

It keeps you guessing all the way through but I found the ending unsatisfactory, and unlikely and although I read it quite quickly, found it a page turner, in the end it annoyed me and I was left with a slightly bad taste in my mouth and quite disappointed overall.

Still a readable psychological thriller that I know a lot of people will love, don't let my negative comments put you off picking it up, give it a go and judge for yourself. I just feel there are a lot of better examples of this popular genre about.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Far Away Home - Susan Denning

Far Away Home, an American Historical NovelFar Away Home, an American Historical Novel by Susan Denning
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads - In post-Civil War New York City, sixteen-year-old Aislynn Denehy cannot find a job, she has no place to live and no family to help her. Some might think this is a problem; Aislynn believes it 's an opportunity, but she has a lot to learn. No formulaic romance, this love story depicts life as it truly was for the thousands of women who went west reaching for a new life. Aislynn 's journey begins in a New York City tenement and leads her across the frontier to a Utah mining camp where she must cope with the conflicting intentions of three very different men. Life in the roughshod camp brings small joys and devastating losses. This novel races through authentic experiences involving historical events until it erupts in an unexpected ending.

What an enjoyable read this free Kindle book was.

The story of Aislynn a young woman in New York in the mid 1800s an orphan, brought up mainly by men in particular Tim, her guardian after the death of her mother.

She is devoted to Tim who rescued her as a baby. When he moves to Utah to work in a mining town alongside the railway being constructed she follows him, accompanied by the loyal Johnny whos adoration of her isn't at first reciprocated. struggling to sort out her feelings of love for these 2 men, she journeys across the frontier in a Mormon wagon trail, facing hardships and loss on the way.

Life in Utah is difficult and still not much more than a child she has to begin to grow up fast. Despite her naivety and some poor decisions she begins to develop a strength of character and feisty determination which helps her as she grows into womanhood.

Her mixed feelings for the enigmatic and rich Liam Moran, confuse her even further, but we see her begin to settle down building a business and settling with the man she discovers she really loves - until tragedy strikes and thraetens to take everything she has struggled for away.

The writing is good not perfect, there are a few flaws and inconsistencies along the way, some conversations in the middle are very stilted as though the author intended to go back and flesh them out and forgot a few chapters! but overall the story is sufficiently compelling and the heroine interesting enough to allow one to gloss over these shortcomings and lose oneself in Frontier America where the historical detail and descriptions are thorough and well written.

I thought this was quite similar in style to Belle and may appeal to anyone who enjoyed this

I would enjoy a sequel as there is so much more to discover about what happens to Aislynn after this story ends.

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Sunday, 29 July 2012

In her shadow - Louise Douglas

Firstly I must say a huge thanks to Louise and her publishers Transworld for providing me with a copy of her new book to review.

This hasn't influenced my review which is honest and unbiased.

In Her ShadowIn Her Shadow by Louise Douglas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the publishers blurb ...

Hannah Brown has spent her whole adult life trying to pretend that Ellen Brecht almost never existed. That Ellen Brecht didn't die in a terrible accident. And, most importantly, that Hannah isn't to blame. 

When the Brecht family arrive in the sleepy Cornish village of Trethene, eight year old Hannah Brown is delighted. The Brechts are glamorous, exotic and exciting - especially the charismatic Mr Brecht, and his invalid wife. Hannah quickly strikes up an intense friendship with their young daughter, Ellen, who is wild and daring. For a while, life is perfect. Hannah is accepted into the enchanted world of the Brecht family, and is never happier than when she, her adopted brother Jago and Ellen escape to explore the glorious coastline of Cornwall. 

But, one hot sultry summer when the girls are eighteen, their idyllic world is shattered by obsession, betrayal - and death..

Another very engrossing read from Louise Douglas - who definitely features highly in my top ten favourite authors as she is so consistent.

This is a subtle and slightly sinister psychological drama written in a dual time frame of present day events and reminiscences of the narrators past.

Told in first person by Hannah who is in her 30s and working in a museum, in her past lies a mental breakdown and a few secrets. She is left shaken and disturbed by suddenly catching glimpses of a friend from her childhood .. who died years before. This sets her off down memory road remembering her own upbringing, with her adopted brother Jago and her best friend Ellen, from a bohemian and musical ubringing - so vibrant and dramatic that Hannah spends her teenage years drawn to her like a moth to a flame, devotedly fond and protective of her friend yet very much "in her shadow".

Gradually past events are brought to life through Hannahs memories although it's told at quite a gentle pace, and is a subtle story where the reader is kept guessing.

In each chapter we are given a little more information about past happenings and left wanting to find out more about How Ellen died, why Hannah is estranged from Jago and what part if any did past events play in Hannahs past mental health problems.

We wonder as does she, whether Hannah is heading for a breakdown again, is she seeing things? perhaps the girl she is seeing is a ghost. When everything is finally revealed it leads to a satisfying and quite unexpected conclusion.

Beautifully written, tense and poignant, highly recommended to anyone who enjoyed her previous novels The Secrets Between Us and who enjoys books like Ninepins and authors like Jojo Moyes

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Monday, 16 July 2012

One breath away - Heather Gudenkauf

One Breath AwayOne Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BRILLIANT - I can’t praise this author highly enough, in just 3 novels she has progressed from good to great to sensational.

In this her latest novel she creates a story around just one snowy day in Iowa, where a gunman has entered the schoolhouse and is holding a class of pupils and their teacher hostage for reasons unknown to them and to us. The whole school is in lockdown and as events unfold and tension mounts we are drawn into the lives of every person whom this dreadful happening touches. Heather has taken an unimaginably appalling situation and handled it sensitively and with compassion, yet what emerges is a piquant peek into the lives of some real and diverse characters, a real human interest tale.

The story is skilfully woven like a length of the finest fabric - the hostage situation is the warp whilst the lives of the characters like the weft are drawn in and out of the material cleverly and subtly so all the components become a whole.

We meet PJ and his sister Augie, their lives already touched with more tragedy than 2 youngsters
should have to cope with, their Mum Holly separated from her husband, lies many miles away in hospital battling to recover from injuries she sustained in a fire. (The description of how easily an everyday moment turned to tragedy made my blood literally run cold)

Her almost estranged parents have stepped in to care for her children and her father Will a brusque cattle farmer tries his best to protect his only daughter whilst unknown to her both her children are deeply involved in the hostage situation.

Local police officer Meg tries her hardest to be professional and control the situation despite her own fears and lack of experience, back up promised yet thwarted by the increasingly bad weather.

Inside the building elderly teacher Mrs Oliver becomes an unlikely hero and despite being in the wrong place at very much the wrong time her bravery is real and the thoughts running through her mind provide a few touches of real humour in a bleak situation.

Heather Gudenkauf is rapidly becoming a real rival to the likes of Diane Chamberlain and Jodi Picoult.
Even though this story is written in the voices of many different characters, she nimbly skips from one voice to another without once breaking the liquid flow of the story. Almost every chapter leaves the reader in a cliff hanger situation thinking “Nooooo you can’t leave me here“ it’s a cinch to follow, a superbly crafted, deeply moving page turner that I loved every word of from start to finish.

Many thanks to Netgalley, Harlequin and Heather Gudenkauf for allowing me the privilege of this advance review ebook and giving me such a pleasurable read.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Love lies bleeding by Jess McConkey

I found this an exciting and satisfying read. Lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing. I love a good psychological suspense, mystery thriller which isn't a detective novel.

Imagine you come round from a coma and as conciousness returns you realise your life has changed not just physically but in the way you view the world. 

Successful and privileged Samantha was on her way home from her high flying executive job in the City when she was randomly and viciously attacked by a gang of youths, leaving her for dead with her skull caved in.

Now she is trying to rebuild her shattered life and recover from her head injury, heavily medicated, fearful of everything, one leg damaged and weak she is full of self loathing for the way she begged and pleaded with her attackers.

Her surgeon fiance Jackson and her controlling father appoint a nurse to care for her and rent a rural lakeside cabin for her to begin her recuperation in.

But she is a reluctant patient and Anne her nurse finds her difficult and unpredictable. When rumours of strange goings on in the cabins past have strange parallels with Sams dreams and behaviour, its up to her to work out who to trust and who really has her best interests at heart.

It has everything you want in a good chiller, lots of characters who might have ulterior motives, a hint of romance, a loyal canine companion and a flawed heroine.

Not perfect, a lot of coincidences and a few loose ends left untied but overall an enjoyable and entertaining read.

Might appeal to readers who enjoyed Into the darkest corner - Elizabeth Haynes
or The Secrets Between us by Louise Douglas

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Island of Wings - Karin Altenberg

Island Of WingsIsland Of Wings by Karin Altenberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I chose this book as it appeals to my longing for escape, I love to read about women who have settled somewhere remote and alien to their usual surroundings and you can't get much more remote than the Isle of St Kilda.

This book tells the account of the lives of true couple Reverend Neil McKenzie and his wife Lizzie who in 1830 take up residence on the Scottish Island of St Kilda to bring Christianity to the barely civilised, superstitious Gaelic speaking islanders who live in mounds of earth, eat little but seabirds and are resistant to change. Life on St Kilda is hard, barbarous and pitiless and deprivation and hardship are a way of life.

Its a brutal yet beautiful location and Lizzie finds the isolation devastatingly lonely yet finds a solace in the wildness and freedom of the island. Unable to communicate with the islanders she finds it hard to get to know them and as her husband becomes increasingly moody and hurtful towards her she struggles to cope.

Battling to cope with the death of her firstborn drives a wedge between the couple and leads Lizzie to seek companionship with the local women, united in tragedy as the mortality rate of newborns is terribly high on the island most dying within a week of birth.

The book describes an unusual setting, the struggles of a difficult relationship made harder by having to rely so heavily on each other for companionship despite having been virtual strangers when wed. Life must have been incredibly lonely and hard for this young bride in an era when breaking away from the constraints of conventional life was virtually impossible and when women did seize the opportunity of escape there was no going back and they just had to make do with what was thrown at them.

A fascinating look at life on an island like no other, although in some parts I found the story dragged but overall a worthwhile read especially for anyone who has an interest or curiosity about the setting of St Kilda.

Monday, 11 June 2012

The hearts of horses - Molly Gloss

The Hearts of HorsesThe Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
From the Publishers blurb - 
In the winter of 1917, a big-boned young woman shows up at George Bliss’s doorstep. She's looking for a job breaking horses, and he hires her on. Many of his regular hands are off fighting the war, and he glimpses, beneath her showy rodeo garb, a shy but strong-willed girl with a serious knowledge of horses.

So begins the irresistible tale of nineteen-year-old Martha Lessen, a female horse whisperer trying to make a go of it in a man’s world. It was thought that the only way to break a horse was to buck the wild out of it, and broken ribs and tough falls just went with the job. But over several long, hard winter months, many of the townsfolk in this remote county of eastern Oregon witness Martha's way of talking in low, sweet tones to horses believed beyond repair—and getting miraculous, almost immediate results—and she thereby earns a place of respect in the community.

Along the way, Martha helps a family save their horses when their wagon slides into a ravine. She gentles a horse for a dying man—a last gift to his young son. She clashes with a hired hand who is abusing horses in unspeakable ways. Soon, despite her best efforts to remain aloof and detached, she comes to feel enveloped by a sense of community and family that she’s never had before.
With the elegant sweetness of Plainsong and a pitch-perfect sense of western life reminiscent of Annie Dillard, The Hearts of Horses is a remarkable story about how people and animals make connections and touch each other's lives in the most unexpected and profound ways.

What a delightful, charming story. I was captivated by the story told by Martha Lessen a young woman who sets out in Oregon in 1917 to make her living as a horse breaker. Shy but determined, gentle but strong, her unsentimental love for and skill with horses ensures that she soon finds work on the remote settlements in this bleak yet beautiful part of America.

Its a simple story, yet really kept me turning the pages, it tells the story of the lives of the families and the horses who come into her life and what happens to her over the course of a year or so.
Its poignant and gently romantic without ever being sentimental or slushy, the pace is quite slow but there is just something about it which, when I'd read it made me feel like picking it back up and reading it all over again.

Especially of interest to anyone with a love of animals I think this would appeal to anyone who liked Water for Elephants and The Outlander

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Illuminations - a novel of Hildegard Von Bingen by Mary Sharratt

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von BingenIlluminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a skilful author Mary Sharratt is, she draws you into a story effortlessly and keeps you there.

Illuminations tells a fictional account of the life of a real, very unique, historical character - Hildegard Von Bingen. Set in Germany in the 10th century, where choices for a youngest daughter were limited, yet little Hildegard has a joyous outlook on life, exploring the nearby forests with her beloved brother Rorich, developing a strong love of nature and the outdoors but at the age of just 7 she begins to have visions which her mother looks upon with suspicion and fear rather than the awe with which her nursemaid sees them.

All the more horrendous then is her Mothers decision to offer Hildegard as a hand maiden to a wealthy yet regarded as crazy, young woman Jutta von Sponheim, who is to take vows and become a Nun, believing this will be a great opportunity to learn new skills Hildegard is innocently unaware of what awaits her. Little realising the consequences of her Mothers betrayal Hildegard has no choice but to trust her Mother and accompanies Jutta to the crumbling monastery, where to her shock and absolute horror they are both about to be forcibly bricked in to a small cell together and left incarcerated there forever, only seeing the faces of monks and postulants who visit and joining in songs of worship through a small grill in the wall though which they are provided with sparse and meagre scraps of food to enable basic survival .

How can a child of just 8 years old contemplate a life like this? In Marys book we face this with Hildegard as she begins of necessity to grow close to the disturbed Jutta yet tries to retain her indomitable individuality and strength of character whilst dreaming of escape. She finds friendship with the young monk Volmar and a fragile friendship with Jutta which waxes and wanes as Juttas depression and mania increase. This is a story of survival against all odds, its a story of the overwhelming powers of friendship and it is the story of a young woman who is destined to become not only unusual for her time but a powerful influential character who fought for womens liberation back in these medieval times. It follows the long and fruitful life which Hildegard creates for herself.

I must confess I had a few reservations about reviewing this advance reading copy of this new book Illuminations, yes it ticks my favourite boxes of being a predominantly female book but not chick-lit, and by an author whose work I have previously loved, but when I recieved a request to review this work my reservations lay in the religious nature of the story I am not religious and dislike anything preachy. I needn't have worried too much as the book relies mainly on character building which the author is undoubtedly superb at and story telling of a joyful and delightful nature.

I must confess however there are a few passages describing the visions and ecstasy Hildegard experiences and the religious side of the story which left me a little confused and they are the main reason I have given this book 4 rather than 5 out of 5. But don't let this put you off reading it in any way its a lovely read.

I'd especially recommend this to anyone who has read Marys other books including The Vanishing Point, who enjoyed The Owl Killers with which this story has many parallels or who enjoyed Sacred Hearts.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Finders keepers - Belinda Bauer

Finders KeepersFinders Keepers by Belinda Bauer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Quotes from Amazon:

'Belinda Bauer hit the big time with the excellent Blacklands and continues to explore her theme of West Country cruelty and corruption, balancing the procedural and psychological aspects of crime. Once again she nails the petty grievances, prejudices and loyalties of village life, and shows how some law enforcers operate at the outer edge of competence' --Financial Times, January 2012

'Bauer has established a reputation for plunging her characters into unimaginable gore. Her third novel easily matches her previous efforts, exposing village bobby Jonas events unprecedented in British crime fiction. The British countryside has never appeared so alien or so macabre.' --Sunday Times, January 2012

'Finders Keepers has an enjoyably creepy premise... But it's the book's humour that really shines. Bauer reveals her Gold Dagger-winning writing credentials in her neat skewering of everyday pomposities and her wry asides.' --Observer, January 2012

I've just finished reading Finders Keepers. I really enjoyed Blacklands and mistakenly thought this was her second novel but its her third and they are in sequence so I kept feeling I'd missed an awful lot of points they kept referring back to.

I enjoyed the writing and the way the story flowed, great characters and she's a very accomplished writer - but I did find the story extremely far fetched, how come all these dreadful crimes keep occurring to the same people in a small place? and the crime which was committed - well really - it was a touch too much for even my vivid imagination but maybe thats why crime fiction is NOT one of my favourite genres.

Good if you've read the first two and like crime drama thrillers but please Belinda - leave the poor souls on Exmoor in peace now and use some of that lovely talent writing stand alone novels with new characters in different locations.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Unit - by Ninni Holmqvist

The UnitThe Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb quoted from

One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty–single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries–are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders. In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful. But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and…well, then what?

THE UNIT is a gripping exploration of a society in the throes of an experiment, in which the “dispensable” ones are convinced under gentle coercion of the importance of sacrificing for the “necessary” ones. Ninni Holmqvist has created a debut novel of humor, sorrow, and rage about love, the close bonds of friendship, and about a cynical, utilitarian way of thinking disguised as care.

My view

This is one chilling book. Such a realistically written view of a dystopian society where society is divided into two sectors - the needed and the not needed.
The needed are on the whole, parents or carers of others, indispensable, as some other persons well being relies on them and they have a "valued" place in society. The not needed are those who have remained childless, possibly following a career, not in a long term relationship, the single, the gay, the independent souls for whom life was enough without offspring.
Dorritt is one of the not needed, and she has reached the age of 50 - the age when women are compulsorily confined to the Unit, a facility for medical research and organ donation.
Finally she is needed - by strangers whose lives are deemed more valued than hers and whose illness requires an organ transplant or drugs which have been tested on another person.

Arriving at the Unit with some trepidation alongside other women of her own age and men of 60 plus, the age they are incarcerated at, she finds conditions there are excellent, she is housed in a smart apartment with all mod cons, much more upmarket than her shabby little home, yet with the added extra of multi security cameras in every room even the bathroom.

Provided with recreational facilities, entertainment and companionship of others in the same situation Dorritt begins to be lulled into her new life, taking part in trials and testing before any transplants of her organs begin and her journey towards the chilling final donation commences. Most rewardingly she begins to make some very close friends, relationships she didn't know she was lacking in on the outside yet which sustain and nourish her and one which leads to much more than she could have hoped for.

I was swept along with the story and characters, saddened - cried in places especially when her longing for her pet dog threatens to overwhelm her and friends she has come to rely on are suddenly no longer around.
It reminds me very much of Never Let Me Go and is thought provoking and heartwrenching yet leaves you with many questions. Highly recommended.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Good Father - Diane Chamberlain

When I first saw advance reading copies of this new book by one of my favourite authors on Net galley for review I was so excited I told lost of my friends - I was therefore really gutted when I wasn't selected to receive a copy. However this was made up for when I won a copy from a blog giveaway on randomthingsthroughmyletterbox my friends book blog, glad to say I wasn't disappointed by it and here is my review:

The Good FatherThe Good Father by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Diane Chamberlain has come up with yet another real heart tugging page turner of a novel here. It has everything to satisfy the hungry reader - an adorable little girl, her hunky yet gentle Dad who's misguided innocence leads him astray yet who adores his daughter, romance, loss, crime, action, grief, joy and lots of exciting tension.

Yes the story of good father Travis bringing up his little girl Bella single handedly is practically guaranteed to melt the hardest of hearts.

We first meet Travis and Bella as things are starting to go badly wrong for them, disaster follows disaster and leaves them virtually penniless, jobless, lonely and homeless and desperately looking for work and security.

Meanwhile we are introduced to Erin, grieving mother trying to cope with life after a tragic accident and Robin - Bella's birth mother rebuilding her life after major surgery and trying to put memories of Travis and the baby they created together behind her.

When Travis is unable to find a job locally he's relieved when he gets a lead out of town and decides to up sticks and take Bella across country to a new area to meet a guy he's never met but whom he has been promised will give him work. In a town where he knows no-one and desperate need of someone to babysit Bella he decides to leave her with a woman he hasn't known long but who Bella is comfortable with, and at this point bad begins to go considerably worse!

The story is mostly about making the wrong decisions and the far reaching consequences, about moving on and moving forwards, of loss and grief and relationships and even though there were a couple of times I wanted to shake Travis and shout NOO don't be stupid - you can see why he gets confused and desperate, who amongst us can honestly say we can always remain calm in a crisis and make the best decisions under pressure?

Despite a few small anomalies and lots of amazing coincidences, you can forgive these because of the superb story telling. This is that rare thing a book which is truly character AND story driven, with precisely drawn characters so real you'd swear you'd actually met them and enough going on for there to be twists and turns all the way.

A lovely read and one I can highly recommend to existing fans of Ms Chamberlain and those of you who haven't yet tried her superb writing.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Beneath the Shadows - Sara Foster

Beneath the ShadowsBeneath the Shadows by Sara Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A gripping and tense story set in winter in the wilds of the North Yorkshire moors, an area very close to my heart.
Between the pages we meet Grace and her young daughter Millie and very briefly her husband Adam - until he mysteriously disappears, shortly after the young family move into an isolated cottage he has inherited, from his grandparents.

A year after he leaves, and doesn't return, we see Grace return to the tiny Hamlet on the moors, as far removed from her usual life in bustling London as can be and she begins to rebuild her life, face her demons and possibly find answers.
We now meet the locals, Meredith and her daughters, the enigmatic Ben, feathery Jack and many more Yorkshire locals who in such an isolated location all play a part in Graces life and her sister Annabel and long term city friend James.

There are so many questions unanswered Grace doesn't quite know who to trust, she is a little overprotective of Millie, her temper becomes fraught and as she listens to local legends and ghost stories she begins to wonder if there is something ghostly happening in her life.
This is an easy read, the story flows well and is peopled with believable characters, the tensions builds subtly and there is a hint of spookiness which build to a satisfying conclusion.
Above all its a heart warming tale about loss, motherhood and family with lots of strong female characters - right up my street.

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Revenge of the Tide - Elizabeth Haynes

Revenge Of The TideRevenge Of The Tide by Elizabeth Haynes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Exciting writing - This author certainly has the knack of grabbing your attention and immersing you in the storyline. Like her first book
Into the Darkest Corner she builds tension and suspense from the events surrounding a woman getting herself into a sticky situation and trying to extricate herself, whilst very humanly not always making the decisions which are best for her.

The "revenge of the tide" is the name of a boat which Genevieve has bought, in a bid to escape the rat race, and renovate. Leaving her previous high flying life in London and her old acquaintances and friends behind, she is living on the boat which she has only partly renovated.

When she throws a boatwarming party and invites a few of her city friends she's not sure whether they'll mix well with her new boatyard chums, but all seems to go fairly well - until she is woken early the next day by the sound of something bumping against the hull - only to discover a body and it looks familiar ....

We jump back and forth with consummate ease between today and a couple of years earlier where her double life in London is gradually revealed as something slightly risque - and risky! She treats many of her so called friends with such scant regard its hardly surprising she got herself on the wrong side of so many people - yet these very human frailties made her all the more real.
Events begin to spiral out of control and it seems that her old life has followed her and someone may be bearing a grudge against her.

The book made fabulous reading - a real page turner and virtually unputdownable. The only reason I have given it 4 rather than 5/5 is that I felt some of her motives were so questionable I was unable to work out why she made some of her decisions - I didn't really quite get her sheer desperation to renovate a boat and her willingness do do almost anything to achieve this. Also the ending was just a teeny touch unsatisfactory and left me wondering just what would happen to one or two of the characters I had really grown to like a lot (and she seemed to have done too) who suddenly didn't seem to be of any importance to her at all.

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Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Vanishing point - Mary Sharratt

The Vanishing PointThe Vanishing Point by Mary Sharratt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book - it was so well written I felt as though I was there travelling from England to the wilds of America with Hannah and May 2 sisters who are so human with all their faults and flaws.

Back in the late 1600s in small town England the choices for women were few. Devoted sisters May and Hannah are very different in personality, May is lusty and lively and rather wanton and her desires are to be free, seek adventure and find excitement, but her promiscuous nature brings her nothing but shame and her options few, so when her father offers her hand in marriage to the son of a distant cousin who has settled in faraway America as a plantation owner she seizes on this as an opportunity for travel and the adventure she craves.

What she finds at the far side of the world isn't all she was expecting and her life as wife to a plantation owner far more uncouth and isolated than she'd hoped for.

As time passes and fortunes change her shy and more delicate younger sister Hannah finds herself alone and heading off to find May changes her life in ways never contemplated.

What ensues is a harsh, bleak story of survival and retribution.

Lots of twists and turns, quite tense and brought a tear to my eye in a few places. Great descriptions of the raw brutality of life on the very edge of civilization.
Once you get your head around the many jumps back and forth in time with one sister narrating, then the other the story sucks you in and doesn't let go. Unusual and innovative.

I think this might appeal to anyone who loved The Outlander

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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Ninepins by Rosy Thornton

NinepinsNinepins by Rosy Thornton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a lovely read, quite difficult to categorize in a way, its a gentle romance but not slushy or sleazy in any way. It's character driven and the characters are extremely well drawn and realistic. There is a subtle tension which runs through it although I wouldn't class it as a thriller as such but there is certainly an air of suspense which builds throughout the unfolding story and the wonderful bleak, misty and menacing setting of the Cambridgeshire Fens, is so well painted that I felt I'd just spent some time there despite never having set foot in that area in my life!

Mostly this is a story about motherhood, womanhood, female relationships and adapting to change and will appeal to a wide range of readers although especially Mums with teenage daughters.
The Mum in the story, Laura, is a divorced single Mother to Beth, 12 years old, who is riddled with pre teen angst, puberty and asthma. Her struggles to fit in, avoid being bullied and attempts to be one of the in crowd, mirror her Mums struggles to say and do the right things to her daughter and often end up making cringingly awful yet minor mistakes which alienate rather than support.
It took me right back to my early teen years!

Into their lives floats Willow, a teenager in care with a bit of a past at 17 young enough to be a friend to Beth, but will her influence be a good one and when she becomes a tenant of the small pump house cottage owned by Laura bringing her social worker Vince, and her own teenage insecurities into their lives what repercussions will this have.

Rosy Thornton is a highly accomplished author, drawing on her own experiences and her skills with words to create an environment we instantly feel at home in and characters we feel we know even though they might not be ones we can completely relate to.
If you enjoy beautifully constructed descriptions, characters created with finesse and skill and a story which builds to a satisfactory climax you should enjoy this latest offering from Rosy.

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Blog Tour - The Rectors Daughter by Jean Fullerton - review

Blog Tour - The Rectors Daughter by Jean Fullerton - review Today is my stop on the Blog Tour from Rachels Random Resources for the l...