Sunday, 29 December 2013

Mrs Sinclairs Suitcase - Louise Walters



From the publisher's blurb via Lovereading.... 

Forgive me, Dorothea, for I cannot forgive you. What you do, to this child, to this child's mother, it is wrong...Roberta likes to collect the letters and postcards she finds in second-hand books. When her father gives her some of her grandmother's belongings, she finds a baffling letter from the grandfather she never knew - dated after he supposedly died in the war. Dorothy is unhappily married to Albert, who is away at war. When an aeroplane crashes in the field behind her house she meets Squadron Leader Jan Pietrykowski, and as their bond deepens she dares to hope she might find happiness. But fate has other plans for them both, and soon she is hiding a secret so momentous that its shockwaves will touch her granddaughter many years later..

My thoughts 
Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase is packed full of secrets and deceptions. I wept my way through this deeply moving story of loss and soul searching, with a soggy tissue clutched in my palm.

It’s a dual time narrative (which I must admit I have a special fondness for, possibly as I can never decide whether I most love historical fiction or contemporary) Told from the modern day perspective of Roberta, whom I didn’t really warm to and the second world war era events in the life of Dorothy with whom I felt an immense kinship.

Present day, Roberta is a spinster, living with her cat in an apartment and working in a lovely independent bookshop “Old and New” by day, sorting through collections of collectable old books, she collects old letters found in second hand books. There aren’t many readers who won’t envy her this job, I do !
In one old book amongst a pile donated by her terminally ill father she discovers a mysterious letter addressed to Dorothea – her grandmother, still alive but over 100 years old and living in a nursing home, increasingly confused and frail. This communique, signed by Roberta’s grandfather and dated almost a year later than the date she understands he died, confuses her and grabs her imagination.
We are then transported back in time to the exceptionally emotional story of Dorothy, a young wife living near an airfield in WW2 her life suffused with loss, the death of her newborn son, an event that is set to affect her future actions and have consequences that transcend generations. Her husband away at war, she takes in 2 landgirls and when one day a plane crashes into the field behind her house, this accident leads her to meet Jan a young Polish airman, destined to play a big part in the story.

I had huge empathy for Dorothy and her story, although very bleak at times and sad, is gripping and compelling, you’ll be swept away by her emotions, feeling her trauma and passion right to the end of the book and I can understand why she makes some difficult choices and decisions and above all why she keeps things hidden, although I was actually traumatized that the one thing I hoped for above all, never materializes. You’ll know what I mean when you read the book.
Roberta, however is a less sympathetic character, I found her clandestine relationship with a married man she seems to care little for, rather distasteful and her aloofness and choice to avoid relationships although it becomes very apparent and very understandable why she is like this I did want to take her by the shoulders at several points and shake her!

I really enjoyed this story which is so much more than a romance it’s an intergenerational look at the way women’s lives are shaped by the men in them, even in their absence. Make sure you have a tissue handy when you read it. I feel this may appeal to anyone who enjoyed “The Guernsey Literary and potato peel pie society” or “The postmistress”


Huge thanks to Lovereading for my advance copy.

Buy your copy here  due for publication in February.

Monday, 23 December 2013

My top 20 books of 2013

It's that time of year when I look back at the books I've read and reviewed and choose my top 10. However I've read so many great new books this year I found it too hard to narrow down to just 10 so this year I've chosen a top 20.

Out of these I notice a similarity to last years top 10 reads in that they include one by Stephen King, one by Jojo Moyes and the majority are by female authors they're a mix of psychological thrillers, family dramas and romance.

I set myself a reading target of 80 books but have only managed 71 so far I think it'll be 72 by the end of 2013 as I'm nearing the end of another.

Here are the best of 2013 as far as I'm concerned - most of these come very highly recommended.

One of the best was
The Playdate - Louise Millar an excellent twisty thriller.



The boy that never was - Karen Perry

The Boy That Never WasThe Boy That Never Was by Karen Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This beguiling and believable story, about the lives of a couple Harry and his wife Robin, both artists who begin their married life living a bohemian lifestyle in Tangiers. The birth of the baby boy Dillon, whom they both adore, only serves to cement their relationship, until the unthinkable happens and in a moment of ill judgement their world turns upside down when an earthquake strikes taking their beloved 3 year old from them and as the cracks appear in Tangiers so do the cracks begin to form in their loving relationship.

Told in first person in the 2 voices and differing viewpoints of Harry, then Robin, we see the very different ways this loss has affected them both and back in Ireland, secrets and past misdemeanors haunt both of them in contrasting ways. Both racked by guilt they are unable to accept the loss of Dillon and Harry especially finds it impossible to believe his little boy is actually dead. Drowning his sorrows in an alcoholic haze, he believes Dillon is still alive and when he spots a boy whom he believes is the dead child he begins to lose his grasp on reality.

We are swept along by the excellent storytelling and layer upon layer of buried transgressions which build up to a horrifying climax.

This is a taut and rather unnerving book, the characters are somewhat flawed which initially I excused because of their grief but gradually reveals itself to be part of their personalities.

Making you wonder how you would react in similar situations, I found it a very enjoyable read and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a family drama with a tense psychological twist or two.

I was surprised and a little taken aback by the ending and without giving anything away there was one aspect of it I must admit I don't really understand. An excellent novel which I can highly recommend.

I think it might appeal to anyone who enjoyed The Playdate or Sister

I received a free e-version of this soon to be published title from Netgalley.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Other Typist - Suzanne Rindell

The Other TypistThe Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this via Netgalley and finished reading it last night.

Set in prohibition era America it conjures up a descriptive historic atmosphere of speakeasies, bootleg alcohol and life on the fringes of polite society.

Narrated by Rose, a typist in a police precinct, dealing daily with hardened criminals, who tells us the story of how she became involved with Odalie the other typist who comes to work at the same precinct. Rose is a plain girl, who tells us of her upbringing in an orphanage and her rather bland life which seems to take on new colour and meaning as Odalie enters it. Bright, lively and modern, Odalie is everything Rose is not and an unlikely and quite disturbing friendship develops between the 2 girls which is destined to end disastrously.

Rose is an unreliable narrator and we soon begin to wonder at a few of her actions and, as she begins to reveal that she is reading us the story from her own journal, in the presence of a doctor we wonder what is going to happen to her as she gets sucked from her job on the right side of the law to a shady nightlife in illegal gin palaces and parties

There are lots of twists and turns in the story, and I found the story compelling, dark and gripping, however I did find the conclusion rather confusing, had to go back and read it twice and am still not completely sure exactly what was being inferred. Nevertheless its a fabulous story, set in a fascinating period and will be loved by readers who like a dark and convoluted tale.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Prizes I've won

Recently I won a lovely prize via facebook from www.Tripfiction.com everything in the picture all in a lovely Paris keepsake box

Today I got an email from http://mebookshelfandi.co.uk saying I've won a signed paperback of the cheesemakers house by Jane Cable which sounds a great read.

The One Plus One - Jojo Moyes

The One Plus OneThe One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this a while ago and now reviews are starting to pop up everywhere I thought I'd add mine.

I feel I should begin this review with an apology to Diane Chamberlain ... Whenever I'm asked who my favourite author is - I name her, as she never fails to delight and presses all my buttons with her lovely romantic family dramas - Well I'm sorry Diane, I'm not dumping you, honest I'm not, its just that Jojo Moyes is my flavour of the month at the moment and looks to be taking top spot for some time yet, I feel almost as though I'm being unfaithful but she just gets better and BETTER.

When I was offered an advance galley of the new book by Jojo Moyes to read and review through the wonderful Netgalley - I was delighted, I adored "the girl you left behind" and so loved her book "Me before you", I really didn't think she could even come close to writing anything that good ever again.

Well I was wrong! She HAS done it again and completely blown me away with her latest romantic novel "the one plus one". I just knew from the first few pages it was going to be something special - you know when you pick up a new book and with some you think "OK I'm sure I'll get into this soon", or "Hmm this looks good", and on the all too rare occasion you get a shiver down your back and go ... "OMG this is AMAZING" - straight off, well that's what I did with this - shivers - immediately.

It's a simple storyline, really. At the start we are introduced to Jess, single parent of a young daughter and stepson, working as a cleaner, living on a sink estate, scrimping and struggling to make ends meet - and this is done so beautifully I found it impossible to believe Jess wasn't someone not only real but very well known to me, I kept wanting to shout out loud at things she thought and felt "me TOO"

Jess really wants better for her kids, and they are amazing kids - down to earth, real, loveable and flawed. Daughter Tanzie 8 years old going on 80, doesn't fit in at school, is regarded as a swot for her passion and uncanny ability with maths. Her stepbrother Nicky, full of teenage angst, Goth verging on Hippy, picked on for his differentness, finds it hard to relate to anyone.

When Tanzie is offered the opportunity of a lifeline, Jess tries desperately to seize the chance for her to gain a scholarship to the school of her dreams but being a real person, and therefore not perfect, Jess makes a few bad decisions and what follows is a comic tragedy of grand proportions - resulting in a journey of a lifetime and the opportunity to change all their lives - but can she make the most of it or will she just make everything a whole lot worse?

Enter Ed, with a story of his own to tell - his life's falling apart and the very last thing he needs in his life are a cleaner, her 2 weird kids and their flatulent, farting, hearth rug of a dog, but he gets sucked into their story and as his own situation gets worse he tries to help Jess - and the unlikely couple hit it off against all odds, even though they are from lifestyles too diverse to even be able to relate to one anothers' problems.

The emotions this book stirs up are very mixed - I gasped aloud with laughter many times, (and it takes quite a lot to tickle my funny bone) I shrieked aloud and I sobbed. My vocabulary can't even begin to do justice to just quite how brilliant I think this book is, how much I loved it.

The sheer poetry of Jojo Moyes writing elevates this page turner of a romance, way above the genre of chick-lit and into the realms of literary fiction, such a pleasure to read and an easy to follow story told with amazing assurance and realism. Every word a joy to read from start to finish. I loved all the main characters especially Norman the great lump of canine daftness and unswerving loyalty who is their dog.

This book is sheer class, pure quality and its what reading is all about. I'm so envious of everyone who hasn't read it yet as you've got all this pleasure ahead of you - read it and enjoy every nuance.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Letters from Skye - Jessica Brockmole

Letters from SkyeLetters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was provided with a review galley of this book from Netgalley, however when I began to read it and realised the whole book was in the form of correspondence I struggled somewhat. This is not my favourite kind of writing as I find the short snatches of conversation in the form of letters doesn't often allow me to get as deeply involved as a first or second person narrative. It's also a dual time story - this is a genre I often enjoy, however I did find the 2 settings of world war one and world war two a little difficult to distinguish between. Because of this I picked it up and put it down a few times and had a couple of false starts.

It tells of 2 romances, first we have a long distance relationship forming by letter between Elspeth, a poet living on the remote Isle of Skye in Scotland who gets a letter from a young man who has read her poetry, they begin their friendship by letter and it develops into love. We are also introduced to Elspeths daughter Margaret and more letters some of them lengthy and a mystery involving missing letters. For me it was uneccessarily confusing and complicated with some flowery phrases and parts which didn't ring true.

For anyone who loves books in letter format and world wars one and two this is an unusual romantic story with a few twists to keep you turning the pages. I'm just a little disappointed that for me it didn't quite live up to my hopes for it I always feel guilty if I don't totally enjoy a book which has been so kindly provided free of charge.



I'll be seeing you - Suzanne Palmieri-Hayes

I'll Be Seeing YouI'll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Palmieri-Hayes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a lovely, moving and engrossing story. I won this freebie through Goodreads giveaways and possibly wouldn't have rushed out and bought it, even though something about it really appealed to me, so I'm glad I won a copy.

It's set during the second world war and is written in the format of letters exchanged by two American war brides who become penpals and good friends, through writing to each other whilst their husbands are away fighting.

Glory is a young mother from a wealthy background longing for her husband Robert to return, whilst Rita is an older wife devoted to her beloved husband Sal, and missing not just him the love of her life but their only son also enlisted in the armed forces.

As the 2 women share their thoughts and feelings, triumphs and tragedies we are drawn into their lives and the lives of those around them, some fabulous characterization takes place and the reality of war hits home. Interspersed with fascinating war time recipes which the 2 women also exchange you can't fail to get sucked into their lives with this emotional highly charged peek into their lives.

If you enjoyed The Postmistress I can highly recommend this.

The Asylum - Johan Theorin

The AsylumThe Asylum by Johan Theorin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A friends review of this book brought it to my attention, and I really enjoyed it. I barely noticed that it was a translation from the original language as it doesn't lose anything in translation although I did find myself reading it with a faint Swedish accent in my head!

I found it quite a sad and empathetic story about loneliness and the different ways it affects different people. Its also psychologically very chilling which I like in a story.

The main character is Jan who goes to work in a childcare facility attached to a High security mental health facility where criminals and the insane are locked up and their children cared for in the adjoining nursery and aloowed to visit their parents. Jan has his own secret past involving a missing child, failed suicide and other issues which is gradually revealed and what unfolds is a story of longing, betrayal, deception and revenge with quite a few well concealed twists I didn't pre guess, my only gripe was the ending which just left a couple of issues unresolved and left me wondering what would happen next to a couple of characters.

Theres a great book giveaway on Annes blog today click through the link to her blog to enter for a chance to win "the Second life of Amy Archer" by the way Google found me this when I was searching for Archers Ice cream - Ice cream and books the perfect combo !!
http://randomthingsthroughmyletterbox.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/author-interview-giveaway-r-s-patemen.html?showComment=1383821711708#c5780768852772355927

Friday, 27 September 2013

Necessary Lies - Diane Chamberlain

Necessary LiesNecessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a wonderful read by one of my very favourite authors, a little different - a less contemporary setting to most of the titles by this author which I've read before. It's a period novel set in the 1960s but not the swinging 60s of my childhood but the bleak and rather grim setting of the rural backwoods of North Carolina of the USA and it focusses on the lives of two young women from very different backgrounds whose lives become irrevocably intertwined.

Young wife Jane has just got married to successful doctor Robert, fresh from the honeymoon she embarks on a new career as a Social worker much to her husbands disapproval, unlike her peers - stay at home wives who function as home makers, obedient and subservient to their husbands.

Thrown into her new role as Social worker she has barely been introduced to the families she will be looking after when her mentor is forced to withdraw her support and abandons Jane days into her new job. One of the families on her caseload is a family working in the tobacco fields and living in poverty. Which is where we meet Ivy - just 15 years old Ivy holds together her small and fractured family of her older sister Mary Ella, called feebleminded by the society which sees fit to classify Welfare recipients, baby William adored by both girls and their aging and infirm grandmother Nonnie.

This family live hand to mouth in a run down tied cottage, little better than a shack on the land of their employer, Tobacco plantation owner Davison Gardiner. They live and work alongside negro families and Jane discovers prejudices and racial divides in her own social hierarchy which are almost as hard to accept as those in the racial divides between poor black and white families.

Jane quickly takes Ivy's small family to heart and vows to care for them as much as she is able, but she soon discovers plans have already been set in motion which cause her to have grave misgivings and as she becomes more deeply involved in Ivy's situation, her position seems set to threaten not only the sisters future but put her own marriage and job at risk.

The story is a superb family drama about people, and secrets, nasty vile, things which lie hidden and terrible, cruel things which really happened to real families, so recently its almost beyond belief.

A terrifically powerful and wonderfully moving story which I loved reading despite the disturbing and distasteful subject matter of the Eugenics project which I had never heard of before reading this book.


Close to the wind - Zana Bell - Choc-lit

Close to the WindClose to the Wind by Zana Bell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A real swashbuckling romance for true escapists. It has everything a good love story needs - a likeable feisty heroine, a handsome dashing hero full of angst and charm and smouldering good looks, a mystery and rather gripping background story, lots of danger and many subtle innuendoes and snatched chaste kisses.

We first meet Georgiana as she is climbing a tree back to her bedroom after sneaking out of the home of her unloving Aunt - to follow her hobby as a stage actress! and this sets the tone for her adventures throughout the book. Upon discovering her beloved brother may be at deaths door and under threat in New Zealand where he went to take part in the gold rush, she dashes off to save him and escape her life of dull boredom.

To enable her to gain passage on a ship she uses her acting skills to disguise herself as a boy and gets herself taken onboard ship as a cabin boy where surprise surprise the ships captain is - well why don't you have a guess? Do you think he's old and plug ugly with a wooden leg? No he's tall dark and handsome and oh so desirable - ahh the stage is set for love to begin to weave its spell.

A lot of the story is set on board ship and although we do eventually reach New Zealand there isn't really a great deal about it which was a little disappointing, however its a lovely romantic read and as is so ofet the case with the lovely romances at Choc-lit although the storyline could be rather predictable, the super characters and fizzing sense of adventure lift it out of the run of the mill and elevate it from nice to delightful.

Although highly implausible it's told with such aplomb we are swept away by the glamour and excitement and left in no doubt whatsoever that all the unlikely happenings, coincidences and adventures could quite easily have taken place and the whole book feels like a very satisfying warm hug.

Please visit http://choc-lit.co.uk/ to view more about their tempting romances
you can buy a copy of this book at Amazon

Monday, 16 September 2013

Nearest thing to crazy - Elizabeth Forbes

Nearest Thing to CrazyNearest Thing to Crazy by Elizabeth Forbes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was delighted to be provided with a review copy of this book by Cutting Edge Press, as I'd already read a couple of very favourable reviews by friends whose tastes are similar to mine and I thought it sounded exciting.

Exciting it certainly is, this is a fast paced psychological thriller set in an idyllic middle England country village where Cass has a cosy home which she enjoys pottering about in, a close knit circle of friends, a loving husband and since their only daughter Laura flew the nest to University has started her own little gardening business. Life couldn't be much better .... but it COULD get a whole lot worse!

Enter Ellie, glamorous, bright and sophisticated she swans into town in a sports car and instantly fits in with the local crowd. Of a similar age to Cass, she makes friendly overtures towards everyone, Cass included and during a heart to heart Cass instantly feels Ellie understands her and believes she has found a new friend and confidante, but things rapidly become strained between the 2 women when a series of misunderstandings mean Cass gets her nose pushed out by Ellie and old insecurities begin to surface making her feels she is deliberately being usurped. Things rapidly go downhill for Cass and her life begins to feel as if it's no longer safe, she feels vulnerable and threatened.

Cass is the main narrator but we are also treated at intervals to Ellies very different point of view on events and as both women are persuasive and believable we begin to waver as to which one we believe most - who should we trust? The narrative switches effortlessly between the 2 women and events which begin gradually and insidiously soon become terrifying and terrible.

It really scared me how quickly things can change and how difficult it can be to make people believe you once doubts are in their minds. I was actually quite worried that at times I couldn't see a way out of the increasingly desperate situation.

This is a taut and terrifying page turner of the very highest calibre - which will sit comfortably on a bookshelf containing books like

Into the Darkest Corner
One Step Too Far
and Gone Girl

It's quite hard to credit that this is a debut novel - it's so slick and accomplished it reads as though the author is a well established literary genius.
Read it and enjoy the shivers which run down your spine - but think twice before you tell your best friend about it - you never know WHO you can trust.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

Songs of Willow FrostSongs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's a couple of days since I finished songs of Willow frost, I needed to sit back and decide how much I liked it and what to say about it as I was hoping (nay Expecting) - to be completely blown away by it, as I was with the authors first book
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
and I WAS captivated by this second novel which kept me turning the pages and wanting to read more about young William, living in an orphanage and seeking truths about how and why his mother left him there 5 years previously. I'd give it 7/10, I enjoyed reading it, would recommend it.

However it wasn't perfect and sometimes the writing style just jarred a little bit with me, Williams voice was unpredictable and although often almost poetic in language and thought sometimes it was inconsistent and rather clumsy, and I feel the authors' previous superb efforts are somewhat to blame for me feeling just a tiny bit let down by this new book. When you set your debut standards that high it's hard to live up to them.

The storyline is utterly charming - a young boy telling his story in his own unique Chinese American voice, his delightful and tragic young blind friend Charlotte, also from the orphanage, heartless Nuns, a deprived childhood, their quest to find the truth ... all make compelling reading.

Then we find his Mother, once plain Liu Song a teenage mother, living in poverty, cruelly betrayed and abused, now living as the enigmatic big screen star Willow Frost and she tells her story which is no less compelling or tragic. But I just couldn't warm to her, I felt she was rather insipid and easily manipulated and I like my heroines feisty and strong. set amidst the very grim setting of the depression, its a bleak and disturbing story and many of the events which occur could only happen within the cross cultural roles of Chinese Americans where traditions of welcoming the ghosts of dead relatives back into the home battle with age old traditions of oppressed females and firm ideas of what is and isn't acceptable behaviour, maybe I had difficulty accepting this culture which felt very alien to me but I struggled with quite a few aspects of daily life in Chinatown.

The ending was good but not sensational. In reading it I gasped aloud a few times but I didn't shed a tear, it moved me but didn't tear me apart. Am I becoming a victim of my own expectations, where I can now seldom truly say I loved a book as I feel obliged to examine my own feelings at the end of every novel and often find them lacking. owever that is what I take on when I agree to read and review a new book as I did with this free advance reading copy from Netgalley. I feel all the more obliged to be honest about any perceived flaws as well as strengths.

This is a must read for any fans of the first book by
Jamie Ford please do read it and draw your own conclusion as I'm sure you were going to do anyway.


Thursday, 5 September 2013

A Serpentine Affair - Tina Seskis




When I was offered a review copy of this, the second novel by the talented author of One Step Too Far I grasped it with alacrity, after all I adored her debut novel.

Her writing has a very unique style - she is the Doyenne of creating assumptions then throwing them back in your face, very cleverly. This book is centred around a picnic in Hyde Park by a disparate group of 40 something women who have known each other since college days. They don't seem to have a great deal in common and friendships between several of them are very strained and the cracks begin to surface during the picnic as alcohol flows.

I must confess I found getting into the book pretty difficult as there are so many characters I got totally confused .... and after a couple of false starts and glowing recommendations from friends to persevere I stuck with it. I admit I remained a bit muddled all the way through finding this a very complex multi layered story which jumps back and forth in time and several different mini stories within the main theme, things keep being revealed from the past which impact on the present and future and as the layers get peeled away we are treated to new insights which change our perceptions. None of the characters are very likeable and I think this lack of empathy with any of them possibly marred my enjoyment a touch.

I'm glad I stuck with what is a very accomplished book and one I enjoyed reading, yet I'm left with a slightly foggy feeling at the end, like I need to go back and check a few things that weren't what I thought they were and one or two questions left lingering where I'm not even sure whether the clues were there or not, one of the disadvantages of reading an e-book it's so much harder to flick back through the pages and re-check. For this reason I didn't love it as much as her first book - however I will be keen to see what she comes up with next.

I'd recommend this to anyone who likes a challenging read, lots of characters, loads going on and has a good level of concentration.

My thanks to www.Netgalley.com for providing me with this ebook.


Monday, 2 September 2013

Broke - Mandasue Heller

BrokeBroke by Mandasue Heller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I won a free copy of this from Goodreads first reads I was pleased as it was an introduction to an author I've never even heard of never mind read. However when I received it and read on the cover the line "If you like Martina Cole you'll love MandaSue Heller and I thought "Oooer" because I HAVE tried Martina Cole and absolutely loathed her writing!

Anyway we were setting off for a weekend away and I grabbed this book to take with me as it happened to be lying on the coffee table, and on the way there as I sat in the passenger seat, I got it out and began reading - just to see what it was about ... and I finished it in less than 24 hours, which is quite unusual for me as I'm quite a slow reader. Safe to say then that its a very easy read - but also that its a real page turner as I didn't get sidetracked or distracted and it kept me wanting to know what was going on.

It was very different from most of the books I read - the characters in it inhabit a world I'm not really that familiar with (thank goodness) and I must say right from the start that I absolutely detested nearly all the characters, in fact most of them I held in the greatest contempt - but thats no bad thing - they must have been realistic to engender such strong feelings.

It's basically the story of Amy and begins on her wedding day to the revolting and despicable Mark, who starts married life having a knee trembler up against a wall with a ginger slapper called Jenny whilst the hapless Amy goes into labour - during the reception! Sounds a bit like a sit com but life for this couple and their friends is far from humour filled. Married life with a new baby for this barely old enough to be called adults couple presents difficulties galore and even as a few years pass Mark doesn't mature much, he is an idle so and so, more interested in going to the pub with his mates than giving the kids a goodnight hug and more addicted to a trip to the bookies than to turning up for work. Pity he's not a bit more like his mate Steve who is the only character in the book I had some time for.

Amy's life revolves around her kids, stuck at home all day with 2 toddlers it has to but she's no yummy mummy - sinking into boredom and letting the housework slip. But when Mark loses all his wages at the bookies and gets sacked into the bargain the cracks in this pairs marriage really split asunder.

Turning to dodgy money lender Lenny Yates seems to him to be the only answer but when he ends up on the wrong side of him he scarpers and leaves Amy to face the music and this is where Amy's real nightmare begins.

OMG most of these characters really are low lives and I never realised I was such a snob until I began to cringe every time one of them spoke. I didn't manage to dredge up a great deal of sympathy for Amy even though what she ends up going through is truly horrible, she is just a rather pathetic character. Rape, drugs, prostitution, gun crime, homelessness are all every day words in the world of Lenny Yates and she gets forced into this world.

I'm not really sure what the appeal of this kind of book is, maybe it's seeing how the other half lives and appreciating your own situation more as a result, but it did make compelling reading, lots going on and well constructed. I'll certainly keep an eye open for more books by this author, which is after all what the first reads programme is all about, so thankyou Goodreads for my free copy.

View all my reviews

Friday, 30 August 2013

Dear Thing by Julie Cohen

Dear ThingDear Thing by Julie Cohen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is written around a subject I'd never think I'd feel much empathy with at all - surrogacy and the desperate need for a baby which can take over a couples life. Being Childfree by choice, without a single maternal bone in my body I've never been able to understand what the urgency to procreate is all about.

This book goes some way towards giving me an insight to what it might be like to feel your life is incomplete without the patter of tiny feet, as Claire is experiencing huge distress after yet another humiliating and soul destroying failed attempt at ivf and resulting early miscarriage. Her husband Ben completely misses the point as to why she feels unable to continue trying and experiencing the resulting failure over and over and pours out his heart to his best mate, his platonic long time female friend Romily, rather laddish, sport loving and total opposite to girly nest making home loving Claire, already a single Mum to precocious Posie (the only character in the book I actually liked)

When over a pint together Romily rather rashly offers to be a surrogate mother for the couple, Ben seizes on her conceiving through artificial insemination and carrying his child to full term for him and Claire as the perfect solution. Claire who doesn't know Romily quite so well as Ben, understandably has her doubts. But they go ahead and find that far from being the ideal solution this decision has its own far reaching consequences for all of them.

For Romily is hiding a secret of which Ben and Claire have no idea and must never know - She is and always has been deeply in love with Ben - so much that she will do ANYTHING to keep him happy even if that means bearing his child and giving it away at the end of the pregnancy ...

This story is about feelings and secrets and a bunch of characters I think Id actually loathe in real life allowing the reader a glimpse into their complicated relationships and fragmented world and its done with huge panache, the readability factor is great I just couldn't put it down once I'd begun reading and would recommend it to women of any age parents or not who enjoy a really well written drama.

The author has tackled this emotive and rather controversial subject head on and brings to the fore issues which are bound to arise when surrogacy is entered into and made it into a clever and hugely enjoyable read.

View all my reviews

Monday, 26 August 2013

A Bargain Struck - Liz Harris

A Bargain StruckA Bargain Struck by Liz Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to be honest - when I read the blurb for this new Choc-lit title by Liz Harris - author of the outstanding romance The Road Back I hummed and ahhed, wondering why, when choc-lit's romances are usually so innovative and inventive, they'd bring out a book in the UK on a theme which could be described as done to death (and often quite badly by the often slightly tacky American romance houses) but I worried needlessly, from the first few pages it becomes obvious that the talent of this author and the quirkiness of this particular story lift it acres above the mass paperback market this kind of story is often aimed at.

OK I'd better tell you a bit about it hadn't I? Set in the American West in the late 19th century when women had few options apart from staying with and caring for families, often treated little better than a slave, or marriage, also frequently not a bed of roses. Take a woman, Ellen, recently widowed and not considering herself in a position to be in any way picky, with no caring family and no home or even a job to fall back on and those limited choices become almost non existent, so when she reads an advert from a widowed homesteader, writes to him and gets accepted by him as a potential bride, we can forgive her for being somewhat reticent to reveal in advance her shortcomings.

Stepping off the train in Wyoming she is relieved that her "mail order" husband Connor, is prepared to overlook her flaws and go ahead with this unconventional pairing and even seems kindly and easy on the eye. Thus she finds herself quickly Mrs Maguire, wife in name and in bed to a man keen to father a son and in need of a hard working woman to keep house and care for his truculent and reluctant 8 year old daughter Bridget who finds it impossible to accept this newcomer, seemingly intent on replacing her late mother whom she still misses so much its turned her into a bitter and angry young woman..

Ellen throws herself into her new life, grateful for his willingness to marry her and provide her with a home.

We are drawn into the life on a homestead and in a small Wyoming town, keen to see whether their bargain will last and if they will manage to weather the inevitable storms. Ellen faces feelings of envy towards the fashionable and beautiful Oonagh whom she believes Connor should have married, and when Oonagh extends a hand of friendship to Ellen she is happy to comply, not having many friends she can talk to. When Connors estranged brother arrives on the scene this causes further friction in the household.

I felt as though I was living there with them as a fly on the wall, its so very descriptive and it really brought home how limited choices were, especially for women and how prejudice was rife and if you were the brunt of peoples scorn or criticism it was just easier to put up with it rather than fight back and risk an already tenuous position.

My only criticism is that I found it a little hard to accept the young Bridgets appalling behaviour towards her new step mum would be tolerated for so long but otherwise its an absorbing and enjoyable historical romance which will carry you away to an unfamiliar place and time whilst entertaining you and keeping you wanting to know what happens to Ellen, Connor and Bridget.

Buy your copy at Amazon available now for Kindle and to pre order in gorgeous paperback

Discover more great romantic novels at http://choc-lit.co.uk/

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Never list - Koethi Zan

The Never ListThe Never List by Koethi Zan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book from the advance reading copies on Netgalley as it sounded a bit unusual, rather dark and scary, and it certainly was.

Its the story of the kidnap of 4 young girls told in the voices of 3 of them years after the event when they are trying and almost failing to get their lives back together as survivors of a deeply traumatic event.

Sarah and her friend Jennifer survive a dreadful accident, defying massive odds then devote their teenage years to trying to narrow the odds against anything else terrible happening - you could say they become obsessed with creating their never list of all manner of things which might be dangerous and if avoided will lessen their chances of "bad things" happening.

But you can't outwit fate and the unthinkable does happen and they end up incarcerated in a dark cellar at the hands of a madman. As the story is told from the survivors perspective 10 years later the events are drip fed to us in small bites, leaving an awful lot to the imagination. I think I'd have possibly preferred a slightly more direct approach as I need things spelling out to me! It brushes on sado masochism, torture and hints at unimaginable depravities, but I was a bit frustrated at times and would actually have liked to know a bit more about what was actually supposed to have been done. Its very tense but it didn't quite horrify me as much as I was expecting given the subject matter.

However the drip drip effect works in keeping you on the edge of your seat, a real page turner and there are quite a few twists and turns which build up to not one but two climaxes.

The writing style reminded me very much of the style of Dark Places and I think it would also appeal to anyone who liked Still Missing


Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Elephant girl - Henriette Gyland


The Elephant Girl - Henriette Gyland - Choc-Lit


The elephant girl is a mystery thriller with lots going on, above all, as one expects from choc-lit, it's a heartwarming romance with plenty of "will they won't they" to keep you wondering right until the end whether this couple, both deeply flawed by past circumstances and so reluctant to trust anyone, even (or perhaps especially) family will manage to let go of the past long enough to allow themselves to become involved in an actual relationship.

Helen is "the elephant girl of the title" orphaned at age 5 when she was present in the back of a car whilst her murder was murdered, being the only witness to this event the epilepsy, which caused a seizure preventing her remembering the details, has shadowed her adult life and she has grown up feeling worthless and unwanted stemming from outright rejection by her remaining family members.

Jason has also had a difficult upbringing, yet he wishes he could distance himself from his wealthy, self styled hard man father and chooses a way of life his Dad despises - charitable and caring, running a hostel for recently released criminals.

When Fay, the woman who has served time for murdering Helens Mum takes up residence in Jasons half way house, Helens determination to fill in the gaps in her memory by shadowing Fay, she uncovers mysteries she'd never even dreamt of, it brings her onto Jasons radar and the two are drawn to one another yet repelled too as each seems to be part of the mystery and two people who find it hard to trust anyone are never going to trust each other especially as both have much to hide.

As the background unfolds and the characters develop the story turns into so much more than a romance. The author excels in weaving a clever mystery through a love story as proven in her previous novel Up Close and she does it extremely well, an enjoyable page turner with lots of tension and thrills and spills and lead characters you can empathise with. A super summer read to pop in your suitcase and take on your holiday.

Read more about this and other Choc-lit romantic fiction here

Monday, 15 July 2013

Until you're mine - Samantha Hayes

Until You're MineUntil You're Mine by Samantha Hayes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got an advance copy from Netgalley to review and am very glad I chose this exciting title...

What a cunning, twisty tale this turned out to be! A fast paced psychological thriller told from the viewpoint of 3 women, but are they all as reliable narrators as we first believe?
Claudia a busy social worker - stepmum to twin boys and expecting a new baby. Her husband a Naval Officer is away a lot so she appoints ...
Zoe, a nanny who seems perfect to keep Claudia company during the last stages of pregnancy and help with the boys and the newborn when it arrives but possibly Zoe has an ulterior motive?
Lorraine is a detective investigating a series of attacks on pregnant women and battling with her own personal life - a husband who cheated on her and a teenage daughter who seems to be going off the rails.
Which of these 3 women would you trust? I'm sure you'll be able to relate well to at least one of them as they are amazingly human and credible.
Even the secondary characters, nearly all females are well rounded characters in their own right with depth and quirks.
There is a real sense of menace and emotional complexities which draw you in and lead you gently up the garden path until a shock ending which grabs you by the throat and won't let go!
I loved the story and the characters and would really hate to have read this if I was pregnant whilst reading, as it centres around pregnancy, infertility and some truly gruesome crimes involving women. Brrrr it makes me shiver just remembering how scary some bits were.
I'd highly recommend this to anyone who loves psychological chills and thrills. Perfect for lovers of The Playdate, Gone Girl or Sister Read it and shriek.

Buy your copy of Until you're mine at Amazon

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Hubble Bubble - Jane Lovering

Hubble BubbleHubble Bubble by Jane Lovering
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Holly's brother Nick introduces her to Kai she dismisses him as someone of little importance despite his devastatingly attractive looks, most of her concentration is given over to her brother of whom she has been protective all her life.

But Kai is destined to keep cropping up in her life especially when along with her best friend Megan she answers a small ad to join a witchcraft group just for a laugh she tags along and meets a disparate group of women all looking for that missing something in their lives and prepared to turn their hands to spell casting in order to try and achieve it. He is a journalist and has quite deliberately cultivated the title bastard - he's a bastard by nature and he sees no reason why he shouldn't be one in nature too it helps keep people at arms length and means he never has to give away the slightest clue about the real Kai.

Holly isn't lacking anything a spell can fix - her life is full and rewarding, in fact it's exactly how she's chosen it to be, uncomplicated and cool with no messy relationships and feelings to get in the way of getting on with life. She doesn't want a man cluttering up her carefully ordered existence. She sees nothing wrong in dating a series of tossers she has no feelings for at all and maintaining a sexy yet shallow, fuck buddy to satisfy her needs!

What unfolds are the stories of the lives of the 5 very different "witches", Kai's background and the reasons why he's like he is begin to draw similarities to the way Holly behaves.

All the characters are deeply flawed, circumstances have made them all the way they are and yet they are all immensely believeable and in the main very likeable - apart from several really vile bigoted men, of whom the girls fall foul when communing with nature in order to practise their amateur magic and this creates some real tension and nastiness.

There are quite a few twists and turns - it's a very sexy tale as well as being a romantic love story and one which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to end.

I don't know how Choc-lit keep on repeatedly coming up with such deeply satisfying novels, which just have you hooked from page one and turning the pages deep into the night - but keep up the excellent work folks, you're keeping a lot of ladies very happy by feeding our imaginations with your delicious heroes and tasty stories.

Read about this and more super romances by Choc-lit here

Monday, 17 June 2013

After the fall - Charity Norman

After the FallAfter the Fall by Charity Norman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing - absolutely adored this book. This is a family drama in the great tradition of Diane Chamberlain with a tension and keep you guessing suspense which elevate it far above the run of the mill.

It tells the story of a family for whom things have begun to go badly wrong, trying to put them right - husband Kit whose business has folded has battled alcoholism. Mum Martha struggles to balance work with bringing up her beloved toddlers, lively twin boys who stretch her to her limits. Daughter Sacha is reaching the terrible teen years where boys and friends are everything to her and a longing to discover more about her father, who was on the scene long before stepdad Kit arrived becomes almost an obsession.

Life has become one long grind so Martha and Kit decide to relocate to New Zealand where a new start might help them get back on track, they soon find themselves settling in to an idyllic life in a seeming paradise. Sacha is devastated to leave behind her friends and adored Grandad, Martha misses her Dad too and her sister Lou. Kit at last begins to relax and rekindle his talent for Art which he always longed to earn his living at.

All the characters have their own flaws and foibles yet are beautifully created, including the new friends and neighbours in NZ who help them settle in.

But as is obvious from the very start of the story, not everything in Paradise is perfect and there has been a terrible accident injuring one of the little twin lads who has plunged from a balcony.

The circumstances surrounding the fall are gradually revealed, there is so much more going on below the surface than at first meets the eye, and we agonise with Martha as she has decisions to make which we all hope will never be ours to have to make. Martha narrates the story and we really get inside her skin she is a terrific character, she behaves like a real person always trying to do her best for her family but not always able to get every single thing right - she's not perfect and all the more believable for her frailties.

The descriptions of New Zealand had me wanting to go out and book tickets right now and the superb narrative had me turning the pages so fast I got paper cuts. I did guess the mystery behind Sachas parentage as the clues were there but this didn't spoil anything at all as the story is a great human interest tale to absorb the reader as well as having several mysteries and shocks to make you gasp.

This really is a sensationally well constructed novel I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoyed One Breath Away The Good Father or The Rose Petal Beach and I can't wait to read some more books by this very talented lady.


Monday, 10 June 2013

The Wedding Diary - Margaret James - Choc-lit

The Wedding DiaryThe Wedding Diary by Margaret James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A romance of the highest standard I've come to expect from Choc-lit.

Cat and Adam meet at that unfortunate period in life when each is licking their wounds after the sudden ending of a relationship.

Finding romance is the last thing you need when you're pining for the love who left you and trying to think of ways to get them back.

To add insult to injury Cat finds ot she has won a dream wedding in a competition she entered when she was still with the unreliable Jack and she hopes it might get him falling back into her arms.

But things never work out quite how you plan them and when she and Adam keep getting thrown together in their lines of work and with their connections to the hotel where the dream wedding prize was scheduled, neither of them can deny a strong attraction to each other but both of them keep a wide berth knowing the other is unavailable.

The story flows beautifully from start to finish, with characters you can believe wholeheartedly in, to an easy to follow, yet intriguing storyline, a few laugh out loud moments and larger than life characters you'll swear you've met in the past. Adam is an absolute dream hunk you just want to give a big hug to (amongst other things) and the ending's just perfect.

Don't miss this for your summer reading list it's the perfect beach read.


Friday, 17 May 2013

The Painted Bridge - Wendy Wallace

The Painted BridgeThe Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having recently read and enjoyed Blue Asylum I was interested to see how this book compared. At first appearing very similar - both set in the 19th century, both with heroines who have been placed in asylums by their husbands, and both featuring a natural longing to escape. Yet they are both extremely different stories with unique characters and a completely different feel to them.

In the painted bridge we meet Anna, recently married, taken on an outing to "visit friends" by her older, well respected, religious husband, who discovers to her horror that he has brought her not to a warm family home but to a run down mansion used as an asylum for women where he abandons her, having convinced the medical profession (with little more than a willingness to pay the fees) that she is mad and hysterical, and the more she protests her sanity, the more it makes her seem to fit the bill of hysteric.

She reluctantly accepts her fate and begins to mix with the other inmates, whilst undergoing some truly terrible "treatments" evident to us as torture.

A regular visitor to Lake House asylum is a physician - Lucas St Clair, who is experimenting with the new medium of photography to try and reveal the womens states of mind from the traits and expressions revealed in photographs. Drawn to Anna he seizes the chance to photograph her, hoping he may discover her innocence, yet fearing he may reveal further madnesses.

As Anna gets to know the other madwomen locked alongside her she discovers truths about her own background and learns about what almost all the women have in common - husbands or families who want them locked away for varying reasons. She meets and befriends Catherine, the Asylum Manager's fragile daughter whome she hopes may help her effect an escape, which she plans, whilst gazing at the pretty painted bridge in the houses grounds.

The characters are beautifully written, especially the women, you can't help but empathise with their plights. The story is subtle yet demanding, I just couldn't put it down once I'd started it.

If you enjoy well researched historical fiction set in the Victorian era and like strong, believeable heroines with plenty of character you'll love the Painted Bridge, and maybe you'll never feel quite as comfortable again, being taken to visit friends of your husband in the countryside! Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Promise - Ann Weisgarber


The Promise by Ann Weisgarber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like the author's first book The Personal History of Rachel DuPree which I thoroughly enjoyed this is a historical novel loosely featuring a real event - a devastating storm. I loved this book too, just couldn't put it down.

However this has much more depth than it would seem, it's a novel of place, of time and of people, all of which are described accurately and realistically. We are introduced to two strong and instantly recognizable female narrators. Told in turns by Catherine, an unusual woman at the turn of the century for having chosen to pursue a career as a musician. We agonize with her at the realization that her ill advised liaison with a married man has not just left her abandoned and broken hearted but completely ostracized by society, viewing her with the scorn and contempt afforded to any adultress she is branded a slut and unfit for polite company. She can no longer maintain the place in society she fought so hard to get and her life seems to be going from bad to worse.

It really brings home how limited choices for women were around the turn of the century even when they are leading a more modern and unconventional lifetsyle than is the norm - society has strict moral rules and woe betide anyone who does not adhere to them.

Meanwhile at the other side of the country in Galvseton we hear the drawn out southern tones of Nan Maynard a 25 year old working as a housemaid to recently widowed Oscar and bringing up his son Andre at his Mothers request - a deathbed promise made from the heart that isn't difficult to keep as she already loves little Andre and her feelings for Oscar are more complex but no less real. She will do everything she can to care for the man and boy she is now in charge of.

Catherine searches through her address book to find someone to whom she may turn for much needed help, she is jobless and soon to be homeless, but she finds everyone with whom she is acquainted has either heard the scandalous rumours about her and no longer wants to know her or are busy with their own affairs - so she seems to be friendless also.

Finally she writes to an old admirer - going back almost to her childhood and finds he is willing to rekindle a friendship by correspondence. Writing letters back and forth with her in increasing desperation, when he finally renews his proposal of marriage to her she grasps it like the lifeline it is and accepts. The suddenness of her acceptance gives her little time to prepare and she finds herself thrust into an alien environment hot, remote and unsophisticated, married to a virtual stranger and a reluctant child into whose Mothers shoes she needs to gingerly step.

When the 2 women in Oscars life meet its hardly surprising that they don't take to one another, but as life grows increasingly difficult for Catherine trying to fit in to this strange new life, it's no easier for Nan to adapt to working for her new mistress. Then a massive storm hits and everything could change overnight.

I galloped through this book, turning page after page, yet I savoured every word as a delicious morsel like a box of chocolates you want to cram in your mouth all at once but are so delicious you let each one melt slowly so you get every drop of flavour out of it. A truly delectable piece of story telling elevated way above the run of the mill romance the initial idea suggests to a piece of social history, heartbreakingly relevant to today. Wonderful.



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Sunday, 28 April 2013

Just what kind of mother are you - Paula Daly

Just What Kind of Mother Are You?Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How would you feel if your best friends young teenage daughter went missing and it was YOUR fault? That's exactly what happens to Lisa in this super debut thriller novel "just what kind of mother are you?"

Lisa and her taxi driver husband Joe live in the lake district where she balances a stressful job managing the local dog and cat sanctuary, running her home, juggling the family finances to make ends meet, bringing up her children, hardly surprising that at times things get on top of her.

I think many of us will relate to that feeling of chasing your own tail around in circles, waking up feeling even more tired than when we went to bed. This novel really does feel true to life, as if we're being given a privileged glimpse inside someone else's life.

As if all that's not enough to cope with, Lisa has to battle the feeling that she's not quite good enough, that her friends somehow look down on her, she's not quite as well heeled as they are, and in the back of her mind constantly taunting her is that little indiscretion years ago that she's almost but not completely managed to put behind her.

So one day when she lets her daughter stay off school, it's not very surprising that it slips her mind that her daughter's friend 13 year old Lucinda was supposed to be coming home after school that night to stay over. Even when Lucindas Mum, Lisa's rather upmarket friend Kate rings her the following morning she barely even notices that Kate's asked "how are the girls?" rather than how are the kids and her non committal reply fails to alert her to the fact that Lucinda is supposed to be there, in her home with her own daughter Sally. When she discovers that Lucinda is missing and people are saying she is to blame, she takes the guilt on board and blames herself too.

Meanwhile the police investigating Lucinda's disappearance begin to draw inevitable comparisons to another young girl who went missing in the same area recently and when a 3rd girl also disappears it seems a serial paedophile is on the prowl in the normally tranquil, Lake District in the depths of winter.

One of the investigating officers is Joanne, a really well written character I grew to like immensely. There are lots of excellent, well rounded characters all extremely believable. Lots of twists and a strong storyline with lots of pathos with side storylines featuring the animals at the sanctuary where Lisa works, the background of DC Joanne Aspinall and her aunt with whom she lives "Mad Jackie" who far from being mad seemed one of the saner characters in the book and I also liked her enormously. It kept me turning the pages and wondering what was behind Lucindas disappearance right until the end. A very well written, enjoyable read and I look forward immensely to any future books by this exciting new author.

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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

White Horse - Alex Adams

White HorseWhite Horse by Alex Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I won a copy of this book from the publishers Facebook page. I wasn't completely sure whether it would appeal and I probably wouldn't have gone out and bought it - what a GEM I'd have missed out on!

The book cover likens it to "the hunger games"The Hunger Games and this made me expect a YA fantasy. Don't get me wrong I've read and loved The hunger games, but this is quite, quite different. It's a truly horrifying look at the breakdown of society following a pandemic and man made disasters which could all too easily really come to pass!

Set in our world just before and following global disaster, the narrative flits back and forth between two time periods - then and now. Told in the first person by Zoe, a thirtysomething woman, THEN - widowed and working in a cleaning job in a laboratory, to fund her further education. She has a recurring nightmare which leads her to see a shrink, to whom she ultimately finds herself attracted. NOW - she wanders a dystopian world of nightmarish scenes, where she is one of the few survivors of a worldwide pandemic a terrible virus which, in the few instances where it doesn't kill has the power to alter and mutate genetic structure, meaning that even if she comes across another survivor who looks ok, she can't assume their humanity is still intact.

She is on a journey of survival and takes us along for the ride - what happens is often brutal, very gory and completely terrifying. It takes quite a lot to scare me and this one most definitely had the hairs on the back of my neck standing to attention. I'd certainly recommend it to anyone who isn't too squeamish and even though it might appeal to many readers of the hunger games it is MUch more adult in theme and I'd urge you to judge it for its own merits.

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Saturday, 6 April 2013

A Stitch in time by Amanda James

A Stitch in TimeA Stitch in Time by Amanda James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn't completely sure about the idea of this book initially, kind of sci-fi/fantasy romance but as soon as I began it, it really reminded me of recent series' of Dr Who. In fact so much that throughout it, in my mind, John spoke with David Tennant's voice (my favorite Doctor Who actor) and it swept me along in a lovely swirl of excitement and continued to entertain and enthrall me as much as this tv show does.

It's a fast paced easy reading contemporary romance which follows the adventures of Sarah, a middle aged divorcee teacher, struggling to get job satisfaction from her work as a history teacher, licking her wounds following a very painful breakup of her marriage when suddenly her life becomes complicated and exciting in ways she'd never dreamed of. Into her life appears the enigmatic and undeniably attractive John Needler, who reveals that he's involved in time travel and Sarah has been chosen to go back in time to put right some wrongs to ensure history doesn't re-write itself to the suffering of many folk.

Her knowledge of history proves invaluable as she is whisked back to the blitz, then the early 1900s and even further back as an American settler. But her vulnerability, having been badly hurt and unable to trust anyone seems set to ruin any chance of happiness she might seem to be going to find with John whom she finds she is passionately attracted to yet unable to really trust.

What unfolds is an exciting and interesting story with lots of historical detail, and a lovely will they/ won't they/ get together/ stay together romance with enough twists to keep you guessing, a delightful hero you want to grab hold of and snog, and enough throw away laugh out loud one liners to keep you thoroughly entertained wherever you're reading it. The perfect holiday read and of the consistently high quality writing I have come to expect from Choc-lit. If you're looking for a fun and enjoyable reading experience with lots of romance thrown in you won't go far wrong with this book (or others from the same publisher)

You can buy a copy now here at Amazon and at the time of writing  a copy for your kindle is a bargain at under £2

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Accidents Happen by Louise Millar

Accidents Happen: A NovelAccidents Happen: A Novel by Louise Millar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having absolutely adored this authors debut novel The Playdate I eagerly anticipated her next book and when I spotted it available for review on Netgalley I instantly applied to read an advance copy - I knew her first book was going to be a hard act to follow ... I'm relieved to say this didn't disappoint.

Accidents happen is another startlingly complex look inside a deeply traumatised mind and a mixture of flawed and complex characters. I found it quite hard to follow at the beginning but this is the authors deliberate attempt to build a sense of suspense and an atmosphere of strangeness and all does become clear if you stick with it.

It's clear from the very beginning that Kates behavior is a little bit peculiar, she is strange and emotionally disturbed, she believes that life is out to get her and that bad things which occur must be more than mere coincidence and she obsesses about facts and figures pertaining to the probability of accidents. Unable to accept that accidents ARE merely coincidences, as her background is revealed we begin to understand her habits better as we realise she has had some truly awful things happen, which would make any of us begin to freak out.

Since she was widowed in one of these dreadful past events, she has made her son Jack her main priority, but in her bid to insulate him against life's knocks she has become an overprotective Mum who can be an embarrassment to a ten year old boy. Her in laws try and act as a buffer but their bewilderment at her increasingly bizarre behaviour begins to cause greater rifts in this fractured family.

It's a relief to all concerned when Kate finally meets someone who seems able to help her overcome her fears and obsessions and gradually she begins to feel a future without fear may be a dim possibility, but of course this is a thriller and things that seem too good to be true usually are and what begins as an exercise in helping her to overcome her compulsions evolves into something much more warped and sinister.

This is quite a difficult book to review without giving too much away, its a fairly complex plot with lots of twists, it changes pace quite a bit and the middle part although never dull begins to lull you into a sense of false security making you believe this is just going to be a nice romance with a happy ending in sight - don't be fooled, it builds excellently towards a very tense and twisted climax you won't want to miss.