Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Look Behind you - Sibel Hodge

From the publisher:

Chloe Benson wakes up kidnapped and bound in an underground tomb with no memory of how she got there.

She escapes through deserted woods with her life, but no one believes her story.

And when she suspects her husband is lying to her, Chloe is forced to retrace her past, following in her own footsteps to find the truth and stay alive.

But who is following Chloe?

Look Behind You. You never know who’s out there.

My thoughts:

When we first meet Chloe she awakens in the pitch dark, her hands and feet bound, with no clue where she is or how she got there but she knows something is VERY wrong, her life is in grave danger and she must escape!

I don't think I'll be accused of spoilers when I tell you she does manage to get away from her prison - what follows is a nightmare of confusion and terror. She is hospitalised, reunited with her husband yet still her memory remains a blank with complete amnesia of the past few weeks. All she is sure of is that someone wants her dead - but nobody seems to believe her when she says she was abducted, not the doctors or the police not even her husband.

So many doubts are put forward as to her tale she begins to doubt herself, and as it becomes increasingly obvious that her husband is lying about some of the events leading up to her traumatic ordeal she feels alone and that she can't trust anyone.

Her husband begins to emerge as a thoroughly unpleasant character but surely he couldn't have been involved in her enforced captivity? But if you can't trust your husband who can you trust

Its a twisty tale, very tense and dramatic and I really engaged with Chloe, even though I did end up screaming for goodness sake, why are you even WITH this creep in the first place??

The author skilfully plants doubts and double bluffs at every turn until you're sure you know what's going on then a niggle of doubt creeps in just like it does with Chloe. A clever and captivating (no pun intended) story I thoroughly enjoyed, with just a couple of small discrepancies which emerged close to the end which weren't sufficient to spoil my enjoyment.

My thanks to Netgalley for the ebook version which they provided me with.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The storied life of AJ Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin

From the publisher's blurb

In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books—and booksellers—that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

My thoughts ...

What drew me to this book was the comparison to The Guernsey literary and potato peel pie Society and Pilgrimage of Harold Fry both of which I loved. Perhaps that placed an expectation in my mind and tinted my anticipation with a faint colourwash of disappointment when I found it quite dissimilar in style to either of these books.

Nevertheless, what this book is, is a charming and witty look at life through the eyes of a curmudgeonly bookseller who is finding lifes miseries and setbacks are outnumbering his erstwhile pleasures and his life is no longer something to be anticipated and even his beloved books can't cheer him up.

Then he receives a delivery he isn't expecting and along with it comes the opportunity to shed a little light on his dark thoughts and brings with it the realisation that there are after all people in his life who care.

Peppered with literary references this book is cleverly written to appeal to its own target audience (booklovers and readers everywhere)

If you're looking for intelligent romantic fiction with quirky characters and zany humour, look no further, enter the book filled life of AJ Fikry.

Closing in - Sue Fortin

From the publisher's blurb ...

Helen has had to leave everything she’s ever known behind; her home, her family, even her own name.

Now, returning to the UK as Ellen Newman, she moves to a small coastal village, working as a nanny for Donovan, a criminal psychologist. Attractive, caring and protective, this single father and his sweet daughter are a world away from Ellen’s brutal past. She thinks she’s escaped. She thinks she’s safe.

But Ellen can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong.

Strange incidents begin to plague her new family, and their house of calm is about to become one of suspicion and fear. Who can be trusted? Who is the target? Who is closing in?

My thoughts

Let's hope we're never in the position in which Helen finds herself, where you need to run and hide so badly you change your name by deed poll and try to completely change your identity.

Now called Ellen, our escape artist is fleeing a relationship gone bad - very bad and when she lands herself a position as live in nanny to the loveable Izzy and her very agreeable Dad, Donovan, she thinks her troubles are behind her, but they're only just beginning.

What follows is a swirly cat and mouse chase, where Ellen has to try and stay one step ahead of a game where she isn't even sure of the rules. Has someone from her past tracked her down? Or is Donovan the target for increasingly bizarre little incidents which make us increasingly more uneasy for Ellen and Izzy's safety. 

Donovans job as a criminal psychologist helps him recognize who to trust and who is lying, yet even he becomes confused with all the psychological doubts and diversions (as did I)

The author adeptly throws in a few red herrings to confuse us about just who is doing what, to whom and then a niggle of doubt as to Ellens credibility are catapulted into the mix which builds to a really tense, nail biting climax.

I thoroughly enjoyed this romantic thriller, with great characters, a vigorous storyline and sufficient curved balls to keep you guessing all the way through.

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher, Harper Impulse for providing my digital copy which has introduced me to another enjoyable author.

It's available as I write for your kindle at the bargain price of just £1.99.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Highwayman's Daughter - Henriette Gyland

From the publisher's blurb:

Is it a crime to steal a heart?

Hounslow, 1768. Jack Blythe, heir to the Earl of Lampton, is a man with great expectations.

So when his stagecoach is held up by a masked woman, brandishing a pistol and dressed as a gentleman of the road, he wholly expects to have his purse stolen. And when he senses something strangely familiar about the lovely little bandit, Jack also expects to win his cousin Rupert s wager by tracking her down first.

But as Jack and the highwaywoman enter into a swashbuckling game of cat and mouse, uncovering an intricate web of fiercely guarded family secrets, the last thing Jack expects to have stolen is his heart.

Henriette won the 2011 New Talent Award from the UK Festival of Romance for her debut Up Close.

My thoughts:

PERFECT romantic escapism!

Sometimes you want to read something intellectual and urbane, which will spark deep literary discussion. Then sometimes you just want to escape from the 21st century of hustle and bustle and hi tech lifestyles. What better place to escape to than 18th century England when men were, rich, good looking hunks and women were .... Highwaywomen ??

Yep, take this with a pinch of salt and your tongue lodged firmly in your cheek and enjoy it for exactly what it is, pure romantic historical fiction at its very best with a story to warm the coldest heart, enough twists and turns to keep your feminine heart a flutter and a pinch of hot forbidden love to raise your eyebrows.

I don't need to summarise the storyline, as that's been done ably above. It's the skill of the author which lifts this way above the run of the mill bodice ripper to the cleverly constructed fiction which makes you suspend disbelief in the unlikeliest scenarios and coincidences and just go along for the ride (on horseback of course) 

Henriette Gyland has already proven her skill as a romantic fiction author with 2 commendable previous books, also published by the lovely people at Choc-lit, both, inventive contemporary romantic mysteries. With this her latest she departs into the realms of historical fiction and with an adept hand creates a fabulous and likeable hero and heroine, in as romantic a setting as possible, yet introduces some superb red herrings and  a touch of dark and gritty realism (life inside an 18th century prison, executions at Tyburn to name just two)

If you want a feisty and slightly different heroine, a hunky hero to make your heart beat faster and a story clever enough to hold your interest yet easy enough to follow to make it sheer reading enjoyment from start to finish, this is the book to read when you want to make your escape. Another passionate triumph from Choc lit (who kindly provided me with an advance copy - thank you Choc Lit) and a charming detour by the author. Delicious!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Finding you - Giselle Green

From the publishers blurb:

Julia and Charlie are ecstatic to be reunited with their stolen child, Hadyn. A year after he was snatched from a beach in Spain during a family holiday, they had feared that he would never be found alive.

Now the couple are eager for their lives to return to normal – but something is very wrong. Hadyn is still in many ways a ‘lost’ child. He seems to have been badly affected by the abduction, making it impossible for the family to simply pick up the pieces and move on.

In their efforts to unravel exactly what happened to their son and to find a cure, Julia and Charlie clash as to the best way forward. As their own insecurities surface, their relationship comes under threat - a situation not helped by the appearance of a former lover who is only too happy to rock the boat.

As dark secrets are uncovered, the couple’s love for each other is tested to its very limits, and they begin to doubt that they will ever be able to help their troubled little boy...

My thoughts ...

I was offered an advance copy of this to review and when I heard it was a follow up to another novel Little Miracles I almost passed up the chance to read it. I'm glad I didn't as it's a lovely, emotionally engaging book which can easily be read as a stand alone - However I do feel you'd probably feel an even closer involvement with the storyline of a little boy going missing in Spain if you did read the first book and if you have the chance to read both in the correct order I'd highly recommend doing it that way rather, than as I intend to, read them in reverse order.

Finding you describes the aftermath of a tragic event, which has had an outcome which should be joyous and tranquil, a couple whose toddler son went missing has, against all odds got him back and are ready to get back on with their family life, but what if the thing you wanted most of all above everything turns out be not quite how you dreamt it would be?

Julia wanted nothing more in life than to have her beloved little boy Hadyn back, return home to England and be a great Mum to him. But Hadyn seems cold, undemonstrative and disruptive around other people and not knowing what happened during his absence makes it harder to know how to behave with him.

The cracks which appeared in Julias marriage to Charlie are proving far more difficult to paper over than they had both hoped and here the author does a fabulous job of switching from Julia narrating the story to Charlies voice and I was amazed at how easily misunderstandings arise between them, when its Julia telling the story, Charlies responses and reactions seem almost reprehensible yet when it switches to his point of view although he did annoy me with his rather bumbling ineptitude and failure to see things from his wifes position I could fully understand why and how he was doing and seeing things the way he did.

This is an excellent family drama, told beautifully with great skill, by a very accomplished author. Full of emotion, handled with sensitivity and perception this is sure to delight existing fans of Giselle Green and those looking for a new author to entertain and enthrall.

Little mercies - Heather Gudenkauf

What the Publisher says about this new title:
In her latest ripped-from-the-headlines tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf shows how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences…

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children's advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends' couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen's and Jenny's lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.

My thoughts

Heather Gudenkaufs books just get better and better, this one's amazing. She creates complex characters with such competence I can't believe they aren't real people. 

The story is told from two perspectives, that of Ellen  the social worker, her busy personal life as a devoted Mother of 3, whose frantic personal life competes for her time with her beloved career of child care social worker to which she is completely dedicated. Any woman who has juggled home life and career will relate to her sometimes haphazard approach to the breakfast time mayhem as she hurtles out of the door to a job which can frequently contain life and death decisions.

Hardly surprising then that mistakes can be made - but one genuine oversight puts her in a dreadful position she has seen clients in and threatens her role as a mother and her position as social worker I can't imagine how awful this must have been yet I felt every second along with her.

Contrast Ellens mature voice with that of a bewildered yet feisty young girl, Jenny whose situation of sudden homelessness brings her into the periphery of Ellens life and into the care of Maudene and suddenly the two similarly chaotic lives coincide. 

Often feisty young heroines can be a touch annoying, twee or over cute, but Jenny is just right, I loved her, she has had a pretty haphazard upbringing, her Mum abandoning her and left in the care of her hapless yet nevertheless loving Dad who sadly has difficulty enough looking after himself let alone caring properly for a little girl yet she maintains a hopeful optimism which is frequently dashed and an innocence, slightly tarnished but not yet jaded enough to make her cynical.

The story makes you face one of those terrifying "what ifs" which you really never want to contemplate ... how would you cope if everything you loved was at risk of slipping away from you and it was all your fault? How could you live with yourself and what would you do?

There are lots of secondary characters I'd love to know more about - Joe the cop Ellens devoted, platonic friend, and the lovely Maudene too, and I'd so love a hint of what happens afterwards and how the main characters get on in the years following these tragic events.

I read the book avidly 'til late at night and absorbed every word, it was like taking part in an unfolding tragedy I could do nothing about but cheer from the sidelines and hold my breath when things got to their very worst. Fabulous writing from an author who is now one of my very favourites, this book will be enjoyed by anyone who likes Diane Chamberlains writing.  

A huge thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin for supplying me with an advance copy to review, what a privilege and pleasure it was.

This book is due to be published in the UK on 4th July and can be pre-ordered.

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