Monday, 30 June 2014

Without you - Saskia Sargison

From the publishers description ...
1984 - Suffolk, England.
When 17-year-old Eva goes missing at sea, everyone presumes that she drowned. Her parents' relationship is falling apart, undermined by guilt and grief. But her younger sister, Faith, refuses to consider a life without Eva; she's determined to find her sister and bring her home alive.
Close to the shore looms the shape of an island -- out of bounds, mysterious, and dotted with windowless concrete huts. What nobody knows is that inside one of the huts Eva is being held captive. That she is fighting to survive -- and return home...

My thoughts ...

A rather different take on the "girl goes missing" story. This story of sisters Eva and Faith reads like the deviant love child of Still Missing by Chevy Chase coupled with Enid Blytons famous five novels. But it does it with real panache. This story really hooked me and kept me reading wanting to know what happens.

The story is told in alternating narratives, those of Eva, the girl who goes missing and is held captive on an island, her younger sister Faith, whose remains true to her name in her conviction that Eva is not, as popular belief has it, dead, drowned in a boating accident with her Dad who can't remember the circumstances surrounding the accident.

We also get the take on the situation from the points of view of both their parents Dad Max and Clara their Mum, neither of whom are coping well with the loss of their beloved eldest girl.

We meet Billy too, the mystery man who rescued Eva and who is haunted by his own demons.

Faith tells the largest part of the story, she is rather a loner, finds it hard to fit in and is very much a coming of age story for both girls. We are taken back and forth in time and the setting of the main parts of the story is in the 70s and 80s both eras being portrayed particularly well. I expected a psychological thriller but its also emotionally charged and about family and secrets

Its quite a lovely story about growing up, not fitting in, loss, redemption and forgiveness. I can highly recommend it if you like a good mix of realistic characters, a gripping story with lots of off shoot storylines blended in, hints of legend and history and enough ambiguity to make you pause for thought now and again. Excellent.

My thanks to Netgalley and Little Brown book group publishers for my review copy.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Giveaway - The extraordinary life of Frank Derrick age 81 - J B Morrison

Please note this competition is now closed and the winner has been picked and announced in the messages at the end of this post.

So many of the books I read and review are ebooks these days. However this lovely book

is  a paperback and I'd like to pass on my pre read copy to anyone in the UK who would appreciate it.

To be in the draw just comment at the end of this post telling me why you'd like to win and I'll draw a winner at random on June 30th. Good luck.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Atlas of Us - Tracy Buchanan

From the Publishers introduction

How far would you go for the one you love the most?

When Louise Fenton flies to Thailand to find her mother, Nora, after the Boxing Day tsunami, she fears the worst when the only trace she can find is her mother’s distinctive bag. In the bag is a beautifully crafted atlas owned by travel journalist Claire Shreve, with her notes and mementos slipped in-between the pages. The journal tells the story of Claire’s struggle to find her place in the world following a life-altering revelation, and a tumultuous love affair.

Louise treks across Thailand's scarred landscape, exploring Claire’s atlas to try to make sense of the connection between this woman and the mother she is so desperate to find.

As devastated people are beginning to put their lives back together, Louise uncovers the secrets that nearly destroyed Claire and the man she loved – the same secrets her mother has been guarding all these years …

THE ATLAS OF US will take you on a moving and enthralling journey across the globe, and into the most intimate spaces in a relationship. And it will find its way into your heart.

My thoughts

The atlas of us is a detailed and rather complex romantic mystery told from 2 points of view. It's the story of 2 different women both at the crux of the break up of a relationship.

Louise has travelled to Thailand to search for her estranged Mother, missing following the boxing day tsunami. She soon comes into possession of a travel journal the eponymous "Atlas of Us" believed to have been in her Mothers bag at the time she went missing, but the book belongs to a stranger - Claire and just as I was getting interested in Louise and her story we are transported back a few years into Claires life and her story begins to unfold, its essentially a romance with lots of twists.

It looks at the things we will do for someone we love, and how we can go on loving someone even when we think they may not be good for us.

Louises search for her missing Mum eventually intertwines with Claires story and the 2 are closely woven. It didn't help that I kept getting them both mixed up in my mind's eye!

We end up being taken to lots of different places around the world and it's clear from the descriptions that this author is well travelled herself. There are a lot of characters and even the minor players are given quite a big part in the story.

It keeps you coming back for more and wanting to know how it ends, especially as Louise search plays out through the book. There are lots of secrets which are revealed in stages but there is one real biggie, I didn't have an inkling about and was a real shock.

The only thing preventing me rating this book a 5/5 is it's a little over complicated and for me just a touch too long, there are places where a little less rambling detail might have been more apt and places where I began thinking "just GET ON with the story!"

Despite this it's a very enjoyable and accomplished dual narrative story with lots of romance, mysteries and family dramas galore.

My thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins for providing me with an advance ebook copy to read and review.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Extra ordinary life of Frank Derrick age 81 - J B Morrison

From the publisher's introduction....

Frank Derrick is eighty-one. And he’s just been run over by a milk float. It was tough enough to fill the hours of the day when he was active. But now he’s broken his arm and fractured his foot, it looks set to be a very long few weeks ahead. 

Frank lives with his cat Bill (which made more sense before Ben died) in the typically British town of Fullwind-on-Sea. The Villages in Bloom competition is the topic of conversation amongst his neighbours but Frank has no interest in that. He watches DVDs, spends his money frivolously at the local charity shop and desperately tries to avoid the cold callers continuously knocking on his door. 

Emailing his daughter in America on the library computer and visiting his friend Smelly John used to be the highlights of his week. Now he can’t even do that. Then a breath of fresh air comes into his life in the form of Kelly Christmas, home help. With her little blue car and appalling parking, her cheerful resilience and ability to laugh at his jokes, Kelly changes Frank’s life. She reminds him that there is a big wide-world beyond the four walls of his flat and that adventures, however small, come to people of all ages. 

Frank and Kelly’s story is sad and funny, moving, familiar, uplifting. It is a small and perfect look at a life neither remarkable nor disastrous, but completely extraordinary nonetheless. For fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry this is a quirky, life affirming story that has enormous appeal. And it’s guaranteed to make you laugh.

My thoughts

When I was offered the chance of a copy of this book to read and review I ummed and ahhed at first. From the write up it sounds a touch ridiculous a bit OTT - I love gentle humour but I can't stand farce.

However, when I read through a few reviews from people whose judgement I trust and whose tastes I know are similar to mine I thought "let's give it go then" and I'm SO very glad I did, I loved it.

Frank Derrick is a very ordinary elderly man, living an ordinary life in an ordinary seaside town. He lives alone since his wife died and extra ordinary things just seem to happen to him leaving him even worse off, the accident with a milk float which leaves him unable to manage the simplest everyday tasks in his ordinary life is just typical, he seems to attract the ridiculous and even in this unfortunate accident his dignity is shattered.

He could be a real grumpy old man as he has few friends and a dislike of most members of the public he meets calling his neighbours in secret by amusing native American nicknames, but he is really quite utterly charming. His best friend Smelly John the infirm ex punk rocker and his cat Bill are really his only companions apart from the steady stream of cold callers and salespeople trying to rip him off. But his daughter unable to visit, living as she is in USA sends him a home help and suddenly his life takes on a new dimension, in her short one visit a week Kelly Christmas, home carer, gives him something to look forward to and is a willing, captive audience for his little quips and jokes. It's his outlook on life and his refusal to BE an old fart which make his life so amusing and this lovely book an absolute pleasure to read.

You have to read this book to appreciate its humour and poignancy yet in many ways I found it unbearably sad. It's about old age, loneliness and the importance relatively small kindnesses assume to someone who is alone. 

I so SO wanted something REALLY extraordinary to happen in his life but all the things that do happen are so everyday its only when your life is as EXTRA ordinary as Franks that they assume such huge importance. His trips to the charity shop and the supermarket are all written with such tongue in cheek irreverence you can't help but keep turning the pages and even though I rattled through it in a weekend, Frank Derrick 81 will remain in my thoughts for quite some time.

My huge thanks to Pan MacMillan and the author J B Morrison for lighting up MY very ordinary life with the smiles and sighs this book provided.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Who Are You - Elizabeth Forbes

From the publishers description

Alex, a career officer in an elite regiment, returns from Afghanistan a changed man. He has left the Army behind and is attempting to forge a civilian career as a security advisor. His wife, Juliet, is delighted. She, Alex and their son Ben now live in a well-appointed house in a leafy London suburb.
But all is not well. Juliet's research on the internet suggests that Alex is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but pride means that he will not seek professional help.
Finding solace in web forums, Juliet is offered the use of a cottage and is urged to remove Ben to a place of safety. After a lot of secretive planning and the financial support of Alex's mother who had suffered at the hands of her husband, Juliet and Ben escape the tyranny of their home with the hope of starting afresh...

My thoughts ....

Finished this serious head-fuck of a thriller late last night - blew me away!

Juliet and Alex are a young married couple with a little boy Ben. Juliet is hell bent on creating the perfect home, she has a mental image of being part of the ideal family in a glossy magazine home, surrounded by impeccable neighbours. But this utopian dream eludes her. Alex has been away fighting in Afghanistan and despite longing for his return, he has come back to her a shadow of his former self. Gone is the strong, supportive, caring rock she has built her dreams on and in his place the Alex with whom she is now living is cruel, cold and dangerous to get on the wrong side of.

Getting on the wrong side of him is easy for Juliet, the only way she feels she has any control in their marriage is the small ways she can wind him up and goad him into a reaction, even if that reaction is far from the response she desires.

Both had a fractured upbringing and both of them are flawed, their backgrounds something each partner originally sought to protect the other from, but quite how flawed both are, creeps up on you insidiously and terrifyingly. The author does a sensational job of not allowing you to really make up your mind which, if either party is the least or most reliable narrator and I wavered from being on one side to being on the others side whilst heartily disliking and despising both of them yet I wasn't without sympathy either - brilliantly done!

Juliet becomes so unable to cope with her husband who is so removed from the man she fell deeply in love with and whom she is certain is suffering from Post traumatic stress disorder, but is unable and unwilling to admit it, that she seeks support from an on-line forum; something I think most of us can relate to, and she finds help and advice from another woman who has been in a similar situation. Soon her own situation takes darker and more dreadful turns (be warned ... this book is VERY graphic and I found some scenes harrowing and stomach turning yet vital to paint the bleak picture of the situation this couple are in) She knows she must take action to save herself and 5 year old Ben from the desolate sham her marriage has turned into.

This book shows how circumstances shape lives, and victim can turn to culprit and once you're on that downward spiral nobody is going to show up and rescue you unless you take matters in your own hands, and even then, how can you be sure you're doing the right thing?

It is merciless and barbaric and yet heart wrenching too, it plays with your mind and gets in your head and is as twisted as anything I've ever read. It seems almost depraved to admit how much I enjoyed reading it, but if you like your mind to be tweaked and enjoy your psychological thrillers to be raw and abrasive you'll love this.

My thanks to Netgalley and Cutting Edge Press for providing me with a copy to review and to Elizabeth Forbes for making sure I had a sleepless night or two!!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Remember me this way - Sabine Durrant

The publishers introduction...

The new, brilliantly tense psychological thriller by Sabine Durrant, author of the hugely praised UNDER YOUR SKIN.

Everyone keeps telling me I have to move on. And so here I am, walking down the road where he died, trying to remember him the right way.

A year after her husband Zach's death, Lizzie goes to lay flowers where his fatal accident took place. As she makes her way along the motorway, she thinks about their life together. She wonders whether she has changed since Zach died. She wonders if she will ever feel whole again.

At last she reaches the spot. And there, tied to a tree, is a bunch of lilies. The flowers are addressed to her husband. Someone has been there before her.

Lizzie loved Zach. She really did.

But she's starting to realise she didn't really know him.

Or what he was capable of . . .

My thoughts ...

Wow, what a cleverly written story of the kind I love most, twisted and devious with a menacing feel which creeps up on you. A psychological thriller with strong domestic interest it is told in first person and jumps from the perspective of Lizzie, in the present time dealing with the aftermath of her husband's death and the voice of Zach her late husband telling the story of how they met.

After the funeral Lizzie the cracks in her relationship with Zach begin to be revealed, despite loving him intensely she was planning to leave him just before his death and she begins to wonder if this played any part in the accident which killed him, but as her friends and sister worry about her frail state of mind, she begins to feel he may not even BE dead, is this her reaction to grief or does she have grounds for believing she is being followed. Is her head being messed with or is she just crumbling after her loss?

Neither narrator is the most reliable and as you get to know them both closely being sucked into their minds via their voices, you get to have a little sympathy for both, then realise both have huge character flaws and its up to you to decide which one is telling the closest to the truth and discover why they acted as they did. We also meet Onnie an anguished teenager (also with a hidden agenda and secrets) and there's Howard, Lizzies dog about whom I became increasingly worried, she is so wrapped up in her grief and obsessions that she misses the fact that the poor animal's obviously suffering himself.

The ending is as clever as the beginning and even though I guessed Onnies secret early on, waiting to see if and how it would be revealed was rewarding enough.

It's creepy and insidious and will have you looking over your shoulder.
Fabulous read my great thanks to Netgalley and Hodder and Stoughton Publishers for providing me with my review copy.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Now that you're gone - Julie Corbin

What the publisher says .....

When the body of Isla’s brother, an ex-Marine and private investigator, is pulled from the River Clyde, she is convinced he was murdered. When the coroner declares Dougie’s died of accidental drowning and rules out foul play, the police are happy to close the case. But Isla has other ideas.

Determined to find out what really happened the night Dougie died, and why he was even in Glasgow, she starts looking into his unsolved cases. What she finds will put her in grave danger and force her to question everything she thought she knew about those closest to her . . .

My thoughts:

Try and imagine you're a twin (I'm an only child so it's not easy) If you had a twin brother, whom you adored, who supported you through lifes ups and downs, who had always been there for you, since before either of you saw the light of day and if that brother died suddenly and prematurely, you'd feel that loss very keenly wouldn't you? Then, if even the tiniest of doubts arose in your mind regarding the way he died, you'd put everything aside to find out exactly how and why he was torn from your life so cruelly.

Well, that's what Isla McTeer does. This is very much a character driven novel with a strong and exciting mystery running through it and I so related to Isla, she's a single parent of two great kids, she works hard and has a rather fractured family who nevertheless provide a secure framework for her life.

When her twin brother Dougie a private investigator is pulled from the river Clyde (yes it's set in Scotland - didn't you guess from the names?) she is devastated and angry, he was an ex-marine for goodness sake how could he be so foolish as to get drunk and fall into the river after a night boozing in Glasgow and drown?

After the funeral a her grief subsides into dull dismay she re-examines the facts about his death (something she has learnt to do very thoroughly in her job as an insurance investigator) and she decides it can't have been an accident, and when she enlists the help of her ex-husband, a police officer, despite his insistence that her fears are ungrounded, more doubts begin to arise and she begins her own amateur investigation and becomes far more involved than she bargains for. Her search for answers takes her to the seedy world of homeless youngsters Dougie was searching to try and find a missing teenager, she comes face to face with thugs and villains, drug addicts and violent debt collectors and still the answers she is seeking remain elusive.

When I read back what I've just written it makes this sound like some kind of amateur sleuth/ detective drama and it really isn't - I dislike that kind of book. This is a tense well peopled family drama with elements of psychological suspense and thrills, peopled with many well created characters, which will have you feeling as though you know them, they're the family next door, but can anyone really know their own family as well as they think?

Islas on the verge of a new relationship and her boyfriend Ritchie is the only person who seems to support her wholeheartedly at first, her younger sister Marie, living overseas nevertheless still manages to rub her up the wrong way. She finds an unlikely ally in the reckless Tania, Dougies ex wife, who wants to avenge his death.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and have an inkling we may meet Isla and her family again in some future novel (surely the author can't create such detailed and believable characters and not use them again?)

The ending was pretty unexpected and some readers may feel it leaves several issues unresolved but for me it was just right and believable - in real life not every single thread IS firmly tied in a undoable knot.

My thanks to Netgalley, Julie Corbin and Hodder and Stoughton for the advance galley copy which I enjoyed immensely.

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour Hello blog readers and book lovers. Today I am joining in t...