Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Willow Walk - S J I Holliday - tense crime thriller



My review

I don't usually like stories featuring police investigations and detectives but I previously read and enoyed Black Wood by the same author, which is the first in this series featuring the engaging police officer Davie Gray, in the small Scottish town setting of Banktoun.

This second novel in the series sets the same claustrophobic small town feel. For such a small town its caught up with the 21st century and has plenty of crime and suspense going on.

The book throws you right in at the deep end with the prologue featuring the aftermath of a drug fuelled party leaving a very unpleasant taste in your mouth. There is a gentle seething darkness to Ms Hallidays writing which creates a creeping sense of unease and growing horror.

Davie is informed that theres a young womans body he needs to go and investigate and his hearts in his mouth with the fear that it could be Marie, a local woman with whom he's been starting to build a relationship. It's not her but Marie is currently having some concerns, is she being followed and if so who by and why? Whats happening in her life to make her so uneasy?

Davie's job can be boring, in a small local police station where nothing much ever happens, so when a colleague asks for his help looking into the increasing use of so called legal highs, he's happy to accept, without realising the relevance it will have to what's happening on his local patch.

An escaped psychiatric patient is suspected of attacking a woman, but there seems to be some connection between him and Marie and just what happened in the past to make her so secretive?

Its a very gripping story and the characters are well rounded and believeable.

Although the book refers to events which happened in Black Wood, it can be read as a stand alone although I'd recommend reading both because it will enhance your enjoyment of this one if you already know and have developed a soft spot for the hapless and gentle police officer Davie. It did for me. It's a tense and scary thriller with a gripping storyline which confronts several contemporary and contentious issues. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys thrillers, crime and a tense, nail biting read.

I received a free copy from the Publisher Black and White Publishing in exchange for a review. Its already available for your kindle and is due to be released in paperback on 10th June.

The Blurb

When the past catches up, do you run and hide or stand and fight? 

When a woman is brutally attacked on a lonely country road by an escaped inmate from a nearby psychiatric hospital, Sergeant Davie Gray must track him down before he strikes again. But Gray is already facing a series of deaths connected to legal highs and a local fairground, as well as dealing with his girlfriend Marie's bizarre behaviour. 

As Gray investigates the crimes, he suspects a horrifying link between Marie and the man on the run - but how can he confront her when she's pushing him away? As a terrified Marie is pulled back into a violent past she thought she'd escaped, she makes an irrevocable decision. And when events come to a head at a house party on Willow Walk, can Gray piece together the puzzle in time to stop the sleepy town of Banktoun being rocked by tragedy once more?

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Mad Girl - Bryony Gordon - scarily frank




My Review

I started reading this book not really knowing quite what to expect, I haven’t read Bryony’s other books and I was kind of expecting some Biographical chick-lit Bridget Jones Diary type thing! – Duh - wrong!

What I got was a rather scary and frank insight into a childhood and life, with OCD and depression and way more that I could relate to than I felt comfortable with. After all, the author is telling us quite frankly that she’s nutty as a fruitcake and yet an awful lot of what she does and thinks are thoughts and feelings I’ve had myself. It didn’t make me think “So what defines madness?” more “So what exactly IS normal?” and the answer my friends – is exactly the same!

It really makes you think about where we draw the line at what’s acceptable and what isn’t, at what point quirks become phobias and phobias turn into overwhelming life altering obsessions.

Part of the effectiveness is the erratic nature, it’s rather disjointed, jumping about, back and forth with the author looking back at her childhood and growing up, the sheer randomness of her thoughts recorded on paper read so much more effectively than a neatly ordered chronological resume and capture the authors mental state perfectly.

That she is a huge success proves to all of us that we are not defined by what is "wrong" with us but how we deal with it and face it.

Bryony manages to retain her great sense of humour and the ability to laugh at her own shortcomings and she did make me laugh an awful lot. But underneath her whole story is a dreadful overriding sense of horror and recognition which quite frankly scared the pants off me as well as entertaining me and making me warm to her.

If you know anyone who has or had mental health issues or if you yourself have ever struggled to conform, wondered why you can't keep friends, had obsessive thoughts or made yourself sick after bingeing on junk food, read this. If you haven't - read it anyway it's a damn good book.

My thanks go to Headline Press for my advance review copy.

The Blurb

On the surface it seems that Bryony Gordon has the perfect life. One of the UK's most successful journalists she is married to a man she loves with a two-year-old daughter she adores. 

Yet inside Bryony's head things are never as straightforward as they seem. Is it possible that she's murdered someone and can't remember? Why did her hair fall out when she was a teenager? Is she capable of hurting her daughter? Has she mysteriously contracted an STD? Why is she always so fat? 

For while Bryony does have a life many would envy, she is also engaged in a daily battle with mental illness. Fighting with OCD, bulimia and depression, like millions of others in this country, sometimes she finds it a struggle just to get out of bed. Here, in MAD GIRL, she tackles all of these subjects with her trademark humour, warmth and eye watering honesty.


Friday, 27 May 2016

Dear Amy - Helen Callaghan - outstanding psychological debut thriller



My thoughts


This is a truly outstanding debut novel – a tense and intriguing psychological thriller with twists galore, shocks a-plenty and exceptional characters. It reminded me somewhat of "Before I go to sleep" by S J Watson, as nothing is really quite what you expect it to be and some people aren’t what or who they at first appear to be.

Margot is a classics teacher by day and her alter-ego is agony Aunt Amy for her local paper where she writes a column giving advice to people with worries and problems, she’s an understanding person who can relate well to people, and she’s had her own share of problems to draw on, for starters, she is unable to have children and her marriage has failed plus her younger years left a lot to be desired.

So, when amongst her regular pile of letters asking for relationship advice, is a letter from a missing girl begging to be rescued she feels she can’t ignore it, especially as since then, another teenager, one of Amy’s pupils, Katie, has recently gone missing in similar circumstances. She is keen to help, despite her misgivings and other peoples concerns that she is being played for a fool – after all the letter purports to be from Bethan Avery and she disappeared almost 20 years ago.

But Margot/Amy is convinced there is some truth behind the letters which keep arriving, previously unrevealed information is given in them and she enlists the help of Martin a criminologist with an interest in handwriting analysis who soon agrees that these letters must have been written by the real Bethan.

Occasional chapters are written from the point of view of Katie, held captive in the same dank cellar which once held Bethan, by the same unhinged kidnapper. Some pretty unsavoury things happen there but she never gives up hope that someone will find her or she will somehow manage to make a break and free herself. Scary, tension building stuff!

Why has Bethan waited until now to communicate and what made her choose Amy to send her pleas to? All this and much more is revealed before the riveting climax.

As the story unfolds we get to know Margot herself and realise that life has left its mark on her, she helps others because she's been in the position of needing help herself. Little wonder she can be a little flaky from time to time. We are treated to a little romance and relationship drama, but overall this is pure psychological twistiness from start to finish. It’s not just about solving the crimes it’s about the characters, what lies behind every action and what shapes us and makes us what we become.

A terrific read I was completely impressed with from start to finish. My copy was provided free of charge by Netgalley via the wonderful publisher Michael Joseph at Penguin Random House and can be pre-ordered now prior to its release on 16th June. I recommend you grab a copy if you enjoy books which make you think, as well as scare you and make you shudder.

The Blurb

FIRST CLASS PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE FROM A MAJOR NEW VOICE IN FICTION
Margot Lewis is the agony aunt for The Cambridge Examiner. Her advice column, Dear Amy, gets all kinds of letters - but none like the one she's just received:
Dear Amy,
I don't know where I am. I've been kidnapped and am being held prisoner by a strange man. I'm afraid he'll kill me.
Please help me soon,
Bethan Avery
Bethan Avery has been missing for years. This is surely some cruel hoax. But, as more letters arrive, they contain information that was never made public. How is this happening? Answering this question will cost Margot everything

Monday, 23 May 2016

Leaving Blythe River -Catherine Ryan Hyde - adventure and self discovery



Blurb
from the authors own website

New York Times bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde returns with an unforgettable story of courage.

Seventeen-year-old Ethan Underwood is totally unprepared to search for his father in the Blythe River National Wilderness. Not only is he small, scrawny, and skittish but he’s barely speaking to the man after a traumatic betrayal. Yet when his father vanishes from their remote cabin and rangers abandon the rescue mission, suddenly it’s up to Ethan to keep looking. Angry or not, he’s his father’s only hope.

With the help of three locals—a fearless seventy-year-old widow, a pack guide, and a former actor with limited outdoor skills—he heads into the wild. The days that follow transform Ethan’s world. Hail, punishing sun, swollen rapids, and exhausting pain leave him wondering if he’s been fooled yet again: Is his father out here at all? As the situation grows increasingly dire, Ethan realizes this quest has become about more than finding his dad.

From the bestselling author of Pay It Forward comes a story of nature revealing human nature—the trickiest terrain. Navigating an unforgiving landscape, Ethan searches himself for the ability to forgive his father—if he finds him alive.

My Review

This is a story of family ties, friendship and the growing up of reluctant adventurer Ethan.

I discovered this book categorised as adult fiction but upon reading it I’m convinced it is equally suitable for youngsters; although I enjoyed it a lot I feel it’s written very simply in easy to read prose with few long words it’s almost over simplified as though it’s aimed at encouraging reluctant readers to engage, in fact it would be great for this purpose.

Ethan is a young and rather scrawny lad of 17 who looks about 12. His Dad has treated him and his Mum pretty appallingly and when Ethan is told he has to go and spend a few months living with his estranged father who has moved to a rented cabin out in the wilds it’s everything the nervous and skittish lad dreads.

He is still recovering from a mugging in the busy city of Manhattan where he lives with his Mum, which has left him even more nervous and edgy than before, yet he still feels more comfortable in a city centre than he would in the middle of nowhere. He arrives in the remote rural wilderness of Blyth River range, to discover his hated father and he will be living in close confinement. His Dad doesn’t want him there and he loathes his dad for his betrayal and callous treatment of his family he’s angry and disappointed in this guy he should be able to look up to but feels let down and hurt by.

Ethan’s Mum says it will be safe there for Ethan, but how can it be? Within the first couple of days he discovers there are bears - wild GRIZZLY bears roaming around which he has to protect himself from and the only neighbours are a good stroll away and they’re all OLD, but they seem pretty friendly (if a bit scary and weird) There’s Sam an ageing trail guide who takes groups of rugged adventurers out on horseback to rough it in the wilderness. Jone, a gruff, hard as nails woman of 70 who looks 50, and is as fit as any 35 year old, and scares Ethan half to death with her no nonsense attitude. There’s a Park ranger whom Ethan refuses to even listen to, all he seems to want to do is tell him the different ways he might die if he goes outdoors and warn him not to venture anywhere without a giant tin of BEAR repellent attached to his belt.

His only real friend is Rufus his faithful hound who lives to go for long walkies but has no more bear sense than Ethan.

Life sucks!

Then it gets suddenly a whole lot worse – his dad goes out for a mountain run one day and never comes back, and Ethan is the only person convinced he is out there in the wilds, injured and waiting to be rescued, but the only person prepared to keep the search going is this fragile and weedy little guy who can’t walk up the road on his own without mishaps befalling him.

OH my, did he have to grow up quickly! It’s fabulous to watch him deal with what life throws at him and discover his real strengths as well as face his own demons. There’s a real sense of wilderness, vast open spaces, wild animals and extreme weather, to say nothing of trails where even sure footed mules fear to tread with thousands of feet drop at the side.

This is a guileless and charming book in a wonderful setting which made me want to jump on a mule, Git out there and prove myself!

My advance copy was provided via Netgalley for review purposes.

Friday, 20 May 2016

The Girl Who Lied - Sue Fortin - Romantic mystery



My Review

A lovely romance with loads of mystery and psychological twists and turns, dominated by secrets and relationships.

Erin is the girl who lied - her emotional story is dominated by secrets and deception. Proving you should never try to conceal things - untruths always come back to haunt you.

Born and brought up in a small town in Ireland, a tragic event when she is a teenager causes Erin to leave Ireland for the bright lights of London where despite the anonymity of a big city she retains family ties by staying with her big Sister Fiona until she settles in. She’s now built a new life there, with a job as a beautician, a long term boyfriend a flat and she maintains a welcome distance from the stifling close knit place she was brought up where her parents still live, running a little cafĂ© by the sea.

But her old school friend Roisin is about to shatter her equilibrium, she’s discovered Erin’s been hiding things and threatens to blow Erin’s carefully constructed world apart by revealing what she knows. Then everything begins to go wrong!

Erin’s called back to the family fold, her estranged father has had a mysterious accident, her mother is struggling and Erin can’t refuse to go back and help, even though she’s managed to keep her distance for almost 10 years.

Despite being in a relationship, although not a very fulfilling one, with Ed, who also happens to be her boss (she’s really put all her eggs in one basket has Erin) She feels an almost instant attraction to the local biker and garage worker Kerry but is he a bad lad or not? His best mate and work colleague Jo was the bane of Erin’s life at school making up cruel nicknames which have haunted her ever since, but he’s a Dad now and his wife Bex seems pretty friendly and genuine. Poor Erin she doesn’t know who she can trust, is blood thicker than water?

An emotional family drama unfolds, lots of mysteries and hidden secrets to be uncovered and above all a real heart-warming up and down romance – will they won’t they? And if they do can it last? What if Erin’s biggest secret comes out? It will have repercussions on far more lives than just hers.

Extremely well written and imaginative, with gently flawed characters and many mysteries and lots of little twists, it leans more towards a romance than a thriller, more about families and relationships and emotions than nastiness. The characters are easy to warm to and the storyline is magnetic and enthralling. A wonderful warm and emotional romantic read with touches of darkness and lots of mystery to while away your holiday with.

This is a book I received free of charge for review purposes.

You can purchase your very own copy now for your kindle, at the time of writing it's on offer at just 99p. The paperback is due out in July and can be pre-ordered.

The Blurb

The truth hurts…

Erin and Roisin were once friends until a fatal accident ruined both their lives. Now, Roisin has discovered a secret—one Erin has kept for over a decade—and she’s determined to make Erin pay for her lies.

Erin wants nothing to do with Roisin. She has a new life in London and no intention of going back home. Yet when her father is mysteriously and critically injured, Erin has no choice but to return and face Roisin—and her past. Erin knows if the secret of what she gave up got out, the consequences could be devastating.

When Roisin suddenly disappears, suspicion soon lands on Erin. She would do anything to protect her family, but just how far is she willing to go when time is running out…?

A must read for fans of CL Taylor and BA Paris.

Friday, 13 May 2016

A drop in the Ocean - Jenni Ogden - islands and relationships




My Review

You’ve heard of chick-lit and grip-lit now meet mid-life crisis lit!

With the setting mostly an idyllic remote Australian Coral Reef island it’s sheer escapism, but with a very real and pretty flawed menopausal heroine fast approaching fifty it also smacks of realism.

Anna is a heroine I found at first, a little difficult to warm to. Probably this is part of her own reluctance to allow people in to her life. At 49 years old she is a real loner with no significant other. Few friends in fact, just a lengthy medical research career which has left her with an unwillingness to get involved preferring to stand on the sidelines of life and observe. But a sudden withdrawal of funding means she is at a loose end and almost on a whim decides to do something very out of character and goes to live on a remote Australian coral reef island where only a handful of folk live and work. She soon discovers no woman is an island and begins to fit in, making friends despite her own self-imposed reluctance to commit. She begins to do all the things she has spent over 29 years avoiding. Including examining her relationship with her Mother, the death of her father and her own background.

The Island in question is a breeding ground for green turtles and she becomes involved in the research into these fascinating and endangered creatures using her scientific background in a different way and growing close to the enigmatic Tom the “turtle whisperer”

Her clinical manner seeps through into her way of writing and at times I found she seemed more to be recording facts rather than allowing us in to her life, but she grows and mellows somewhat through the book and when she finds herself on the other side of the fence with disease and illness affecting the people she has recently come to know and love, instead of adopting the clinical distance she always cultivated throughout her career she finds she has to face it head on.

Her research involved Huntingtons disease and this features rather heavily in the book and I learnt quite a lot about this dreadful condition in these pages.

This is so much more than a beach read, it tackles some very gritty subjects in a forthright and informative way, yet has a dreamlike quality which captured my imagination. By the time I was 50 pages in I was ready to throw the book together with a pair of shorts in my backpack and head off for a desert island myself.

There is emotion aplenty and I shed a little tear. I love discovering new authors and this is another whose work is just great. The characters are wonderful, I fell a little in love with Morrie, was enchanted by the young mum and her baby, which Anna helped deliver during a storm. The book is filled with adventures, people and relationships.

I recieved a complimentary copy in exchange for an impartial review.

The Blurb

On her 49th birthday, Anna Fergusson, Boston neuroscientist and dedicated introvert, arrives at an unwanted crossroads when the funding for her research lab is cut. With her confidence shattered and her future uncertain, on impulse she rents a cabin for a year on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. 

However Turtle Island, alive with sea birds and nesting Green turtles, is not the retreat she expected. Here she finds love for the eccentric islanders who become her family; for Tom, the laid-back turtle whisperer; and for the turtles whose ancient mothering instincts move her to tears. But Anna finds that even on her idyllic drop in the ocean there is pain, and as the months fly past her dream for a new life is threatened by a darkness that challenges everything she has come to believe about the power of love. 

Evocative and thought-provoking, A Drop in the Ocean is a story about second chances and hard lessons learned in the gentlest of ways.

The Wacky man - Lyn G Farrell - Brutally honest


MY REVIEW:

I was invited to take part in the blog tour for this book and knew I wouldn’t be able to finish reading my copy in time for the tour. This is always a difficult scenario as I make a point of only featuring books I’ve enjoyed on my blog and what if it turned out to be a Dud after publishing an article by the author especially written just for me?

Phew – it’s NOT a Dud it’s a mind blower!

The story is narrated by Amanda, just a teenager, she looks back at her life in a series of flashbacks and memories, emerging from her damaged and fractured mind. No sweet coming of age story this.

Her life was dominated by her loathsome and violent father, he bullied and mistreated Amanda’s Mum and twin brothers mercilessly, but saved his really psychotic nastiness for his only daughter whom he despised and loathed, ensuring she grows up despising and loathing herself.

This story is brutal and shocking, it’s grim and dark and to be honest hardly any light seeps in to the book never mind between the drawn curtains of the bedroom Amanda has concealed herself within, too damaged and confused to face a world that can inflict such pain on a youngster. It’s far removed from your usual misery memoirs, though. It’s not angling for sympathy and full of heart wobbling anguished pleas. It’s literary and caustic and very thought provoking.

The story tells at first how her Mother met her Father, we are taken to Ireland to visit his completely loathsome family of bog-Irish who really are gutter trash with only one or two members who are a little kinder, so it’s hardly surprising he turns out not to be the dashing knight in armour Ma hopes for. The fact that Amanda can write sensitively about her family background is the only glimmer of hope I had that she retains some empathy for them.

We then go on to experience her life in England, her early school years and watch things spiral out of control for Amanda. The more she is bullied by her sicko Dad telling her she is worthless, ugly and useless, the less likeable she becomes to those around her who see not a child in need of help but a tearaway refusing to conform and she becomes as much of an enemy to herself as The Wacky man is to her.

That the tale is told from deep within the fractured psyche of a mentally and physically abused child is apparent from the way she skitters about from one thought to another. The ending left me with my heart in my mouth and a lump in my throat.

But … what I found most UTTERLY horrifying and terrifying is the fact that I had read in advance, the article by this author, freely admitting that although this is a work of fiction, her debut novel is based on her own tough, brutal and horrifying experiences!

When I read a novel like this the only saving grace is that I can tell myself, “It’s not real, it’s not happening to a real person, this is all made up” but all the way through this I worded how much of it was based on the authors real experiences. I think I probably don’t really want to know. If even 10% of the events in the book have happened in the author’s own past then I applaud her for having the perspicacity to turn it around and create a novel about it, thumbing her nose at her own Wacky man and triumphing.

To Amanda (and Lyn) I just want to send the HUGE hug which the child deserved and never got.

My thanks go to the author for providing me with a copy of her book to review impartially and frankly, for writing an article for my own humble little blog and I wish her every success with this unusual and haunting book.


The Blurb:

My new shrink asks me, ‘What things do you remember about being very young?’
It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone . . .  

Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised. As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?

Monday, 9 May 2016

The Wacky Man - Lyn G Farrell - Blog tour article

The Wacky Man - Lyn G Farrell - Blog tour, article.



I was invited to take part in the blog tour for Lyn G Farrells debut novel The Wacky Man a couple of weeks ago.

I love helping carefully selected emerging female authors launch their writing careers by reading and reviewing their books and was intrigued by the sound of this one.

Heres the gorgeous cover and the synopsis which whet my appetite:


Blurb

My new shrink asks me, ‘What things do you remember about being very young?’ It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone… 

Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised. 

As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?

Advance Praise

Winner of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary Prize, the UK's biggest prize for unpublished authors
'Harrowing, unsettling, but brilliant from first page to last. My Book of the Year.' Clio Gray, Man Booker International and Baileys Prize-nominated author of The Anatomist's Dream
'The Wacky Man makes for a visceral piece of realism.' Rob Ward, Brown University
'An ambitious, dark, searing debut novel... didn't let me go from page to raw, agonising, heart-wrenching page.' Mark O'Brien, MADE in Leeds

 As I haven't quite had time yet to finish reading this harrowing, yet powerful and moving book (but my review will follow in the next few days) Lyn has written a short and revealing article which she called a Brutal Write about how she came to write this novel and why.

UPDATE: here is my review - Phew!

If you've read or are interested in reading The Wacky Man I highly recommend reading Lyns article which follows ....

A Brutal Write:

I thought this novel would be very difficult to sell because it was very difficult to write. I had to work through deep sadness, sometimes anger, to get it written. Sometimes I had to take time out from it, sit somewhere quiet to find peace. I still can’t read one chapter because it makes me cry. Despite that I’ve achieved exactly what I hoped to with the story.

When I approached a few agencies they said words to the effect of “…really like your writing but the subject matter is too brutal.” It seemed at that point, that there was nowhere to go with my book because a rewrite, to dilute aspects of the story, was impossible. A novel with a battered child at its core, to be authentic and real, was always going to be raw. 

I’ve been asked why on earth I wanted to write such a novel.  In many novels victims of violence, often children, are voiceless, spoken about post-death by detectives, psychologists and other authority figures. I wanted to write a book where the battered child has a voice, a huge, angry voice, where she speaks up, screams out, makes us sit up and take notice.


The Luke Bitmead Foundation and Legend Press took a risk in selecting me as the 2015 Bursary winner. Without them, the child in need would still be silenced. It’s a brutal write and a tough read because it’s inspired by my own experiences which were brutal, tough, terrifying at times. It really couldn’t be written any other way and I think that readers will really get that.
Lyn Farrell


Want to read more from Lyn? Her novel the Wacky man is out NOW - published by Legend Press

in ebook and paperback.


Monday, 2 May 2016

After the Lie - Kerry Fisher - wonderful writing



My thoughts

What an absolutely BRILLIANT read! Oh Gosh I wish I hadn’t finished it so quickly, then I’d still have more of it to look forward to.

This book bridges the gap between romantic fiction family drama, and twisty psychological roller coaster perfectly. It’s beautiful, almost lyrical prose, of profound emotion laced with gentle humour reminded me of two books I completely adore – The Husband’s secret by Liane Moriarty and One plus One by Jojo Moyes.  

Which bushel has this author been hiding her light under until now? Her writing style is sheer perfection, this book gripped me like Velcro from the very start and completely enthralled and entertained me right the way through, with multitudes of wonderful thought processes and little asides which allowed me to climb right inside the head of the narrator and live this book along with her.

It is a family based romantic drama with lots of secrets and lies and getting found outs and “OMG don’t do that” moments followed by “Sighhhh - How are you going to put that one right then?”

The main protagonist is Lydia who tells the story. She has a successful event planning business and occasionally helps her husband promote his Upmarket kitchen fitting business. Lydia lives a nice steady life with her hard working and loyal husband Mark, their two teenage kids Izzy, thirteen and Jamie 16, not forgetting Mabel the family dog who wags and bounds her way through the book with a smile on her face and a dead rabbit hanging from her mouth! The kids are her life and alos the bane of it, typical teenagers Lydia is determined she will always do her very best for them but life keeps sneaking in the way and suddenly, they don’t want to be mothered any more and begin communicating in shrugs and sullen grimaces.

It’s not a jet set lifestyle but it’s a good one and Lydia’s pretty content with the life she’s spent 30 years carefully building, carefully keeping some things hidden which she can never, ever, tell without changing the way everyone thinks of her, she’s adept at deception and keeping thigs under wraps from her husband and children and only occasionally wishes she could break out of her placid mould and be someone a little wilder and more exciting.

Her parents have helped construct the lie she’s living. Her father has a certain fragility she always has to be careful of not shattering. Lydias mother is a dreadful snob, a merciless social climber. In parts of the book I hated her with a passion, at other times I was merely exasperated at her intractibilty. (Of all the things this woman does the one I find it utterly impossible to forgive her for is Tripod, read it, I’m sure you’ll understand)

Even at 43 years old, Lydias birthday brings a gift her mother thinks is socially fitting but never reflects her daughters actual tastes or needs. The only thing they have in common is a
liking for a nice slice of cake and a desire to keep everything on an even keel and never even between just the 2 of them, mention “that awful carry on” from Lydias teenage years, which lies festering beneath everything.

Lydias skills at event organising, despite having mostly been used for planning unique weddings, are seized upon by the school Rugby club fundraising committee and she suddenly finds herself railroaded into helping promote money making for a new clubhouse, when a face from the past turns up and brings memories and secrets she thought were buried right back to the surface and leaves her shaken and shattered.

It would only take one sentence to blow apart the carefully constructed Surrey life she has built and when everything seems about to split open she begins a whole new level of deceit, as if things aren’t already complicated enough, with untruths, deceit and secrets galore. She makes some really ill-advised decisions, but isn’t that exactly what makes us human?

Her whole sense of self is threatened and suddenly she begins to become a different kind of Lydia, one she likes even less than the controlled calm Lydia she has cultivated over the years. She suddenly acts out of character or is she just reverting to type?.

The characters within these pages are just fabulous and so very realistic, there have been some awful things happened in her past but Lydias voice comes through strong and loud and just as though you are really party to her inner thoughts, there are some laugh out loud moments, especially around the kids and especially Mabel the lovable and irrepressible dog who comes a close second to my favourite literary canine companion ever, Norman the flatulent hound from the previously mentioned book One plus One.

Her descriptions and thoughts are just brilliant, when the kids are behaving suspiciously innocently she thinks to herself “the last time Jamie behaved  like this, was when he received a detention for imitating the geography teacher when a wasp flew up her skirt” !!

We discover the main part of her secret about 30% in to the book but there are further revelations, more secrets to hide and life continues to throw dung at Lydia until you’re not quite sure if she can take any more.

Wonderful, wonderful book – just perfect. If you like either of the books I compared this to above,  or if you enjoy books by Amanda Prowse who has a similar heartfelt style of narration you'll love this one.

My thanks to Netgalley and the wonderful folk at Bookouture for my advance copy for reviewing.

Description:

An addictive and gripping read about love, life and living a lie.

One little lie can make one big difference …

Lydia has the ‘right’ kind of friends, her children are at the ‘right’ kind of school and she’s married to the ‘right’ sort of man – kind, steady, reliable Mark. Her wedding business is flourishing and even though she is at loggerheads with her mother, she couldn’t ask for anything more from life.

But the truth is that Lydia has been lucky. She has been living a lie for years and Mark has no idea who he is really married to. But nothing lasts forever and the past has a funny way of catching up with the present. When the person who knows all of Lydia’s dark little secrets turns up at the school gates, his presence threatens to blow Lydia’s life apart.

What is Lydia’s terrible truth? Once the secret is out, you can’t put it back …